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[From a portrait in the possession of Miss M. B. P. Garnett, Hoboken.j 

ptograpfnes? of ieabing Americans; 

Edited by W. P. TRENT 




Author of "Flame, Electricity and the Camera" and 
"Inventors at Work'''' 






Published November, 191 y 

RAHWAr, N. j. 






WITHIN its twelve chapters this book presents a group of 
leading American inventors of the past. First in time, and, 
in many respects, first in talent, is Colonel John Stevens, 
who built a successful screw propeller, and who devised a 
sectional boiler of a model which, duly modified, is in wide 
use to-day. Beside him stands his son Robert, who devised 
the T-rail and much other equipment for railroads and work- 
shops. Fulton comes next with his Clermont and his tor- 
pedoes, an inventor with a statesman's breadth of mind, 
with the outlook of an artist no less than that of an engineer. 
The mastery of land and sea is continued by Ericsson with 
his Novelty locomotive, his Monitor, and his caloric engine. 
These four great engineers are succeeded by four mechanics, 
each the leader of an industrial revolution. First Whitney, 
with his cotton-gin ; then Blanchard, with his copying lathe ; 
McCormick, with his reaper; Howe, with his sewing- 
machine. Then, all alone, stands Charles Goodyear, who 
came to the vulcanization of rubber by dint of a courage 
unsurpassed in the annals of peace or war. A final quartette 
are inventors who broadened the empire of the printed word : 
Morse, who gave electricity a pencil to write its messages 
a thousand miles away ; Tilghman, who derived paper from 
wood so as to create a new basic industry for mankind ; 
Sholes, who built a typewriter to replace the pen with the 
legibility and swiftness of printing; and last of all, Mer- 
genthaler, who took a Sholes keyboard, and bade it com- 
pose both the columns of newspapers and the pages of a 

The sketches of these heroes and their exploits include 
much information never published before. Inventors are 
apt to be a silent race, more given to experiment than to 



recording its results. We can retrace only a few of the 
steps which took such a man as Blanchard, for instance, 
from apprenticeship to primacy and triumph. Mergen- 
thaler, fortunately, during months of rest and quiet as an 
invalid, wrote his autobiography. His son, Mr. Eugene G. 
Mergenthaler, has permitted several of its golden pages to 
appear in this volume. They picture the formative years of 
one of the great inventors of all time. 

Where opportunity has proffered itself, a contrast be- 
twixt old and new, the days of small things and the present 
hour, is exhibited. Noteworthy here is the comparison of 
modern telegraphy with its puny beginnings, involving a 
struggle which all but overwhelmed Morse, the dauntless 

In preparing this book I have received much generous aid. 
The Stevens chapter owes many facts to President A. C. 
Humphreys and Professor F. de R. Furman of Stevens Insti- 
tute, as well as to Mr. Edwin A. S. Brown of Hoboken. The 
pages on Eli Whitney are largely drawn from contributions 
by his grandson and namesake of New Haven, Connecticut. 
Mr. Edward Lind Morse of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, son 
of Professor Samuel F. B. Morse, has given me much in- 
formation. Mr. James Cumming Vail of Morristown, New 
Jersey, sent me the portrait of his father printed in this vol- 
ume, and has rendered me constant help. From Mr. S. M. 
Williams of the Western Union Telegraph Company, New 
York, came the statistics which round off the sketch of 
American telegraphy. The chapter on Charles Goodyear is 
mainly derived from his notebook, lent by his grandson, 
Mr. Nelson Goodyear of New York. Professor William H. 
Goodyear, a son of Charles Goodyear, has given me interest- 
ing facts hitherto unpublished. I owe an informing survey 
of a model rubber factory to Mr. A. D. Thornton, chemical 
director of the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company, 
Montreal. In reciting the story of rubber I was favored with 


indispensable aid by Mr. Henry C. Pearson, editor of the 
India Rubber World, New York. From the late Mr. Bruce 
J. Home and his son, Mr. Robert Home, of Edinburgh, 
Scotland, came the narrative by Patrick Bell of his inven- 
tion of the reaper. This story has, I believe, never before 
appeared in America. From Mr. Louis Sholes of Milwau- 
kee, and Mr. Zalmon P. Sholes of New York, I have learned 
much as to the career of their honored father. My in- 
formation regarding General Benjamin C. Tilghman was in 
chief part contributed by his niece, Miss Emily Tilghman 
of Philadelphia; and by Mr. F. C. Brooksbank and Mr. F. 
E. Hyslop, long associated with the General. For the Mer- 
genthaler chapter I received cordial aid from Mr. Norman 
Dodge of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company of New 
York, Mr. Frank P. Hill, librarian of the Public Library, 
Brooklyn, Mr. R. C. Jenkinson of Newark, New Jersey, and 
Mr. W. F. Schuckers of Washington, D. C. From first to 
last my task in writing this book has been loyally seconded 
by Mr. William Murdoch Lind of New York. 

NEW YORK, November, 1912. 




ROBERT FULTON . . .. . .4 

ELI WHITNEY " . . . . . , 75 

THOMAS BLANCHARD . . . . ..... IO 4 



JOHN ERICSSON . . . 2l8 



ELIAS HOWE ... . . . . ..... -338 



INDEX 435 




JOHN STEVENS Frontispiece 
















Boiler, Engine, and Propellers of the 1804 Boat . . . 10 

The Twin-screw Propeller of 1804 14 

An Enlarged Section of an Edge-rail to Show the Disposition 

of Parts which Gives Greatest Strength .... 22 
Facsimile of Sketch of Cross-section, Side Elevation, and 

Ground Plan of the First T-rail 22 

First Train on the Camden and Amboy Railroad ... 24 

The Stevens Battery in Her Dry Dock 3 2 

William Symington's Steamboat, Charlotte Dundas . -57 

Machinery of Fulton's Steamboat, Clermont . . , . 60 

Plan of the Clermont 62 

Plan of Whitney's Cotton Gin 80 

Whitney Cotton Gin 82 

Original Blanchard Lathe 106 

Blanchard Tack Machine . m 

Blanchard's Machine for Bending Wood 117 

Chappe Telegraph 135 




Morse First Telegraph Instrument ...... 143 

A Rough Drawing Made by Morse in 1870 to Show the First 
Form of the Alphabet and the Changes to the Present 

Form ........... 150 

The Baltimore Recording Instrument of 1844 . . . .161 

Vail's Original Finger Key of 1844 164 

Horseman in Waterproofs. Life-Boat. Drawn by Charles 

Goodyear 208 

The Novelty Locomotive 223 

Ericsson Caloric Engine . . . . . ... . 226 

The Monitor 247 

Floating Battery Invented by Abraham Bloodgood . . . 255 
Longitudinal Section of Destroyer, Showing Gun and Pro- 
jectile . . 263 

Solar Engine, Operated by the Intervention of Atmospheric Air 270 

Pitt's Rippling Cylinder . . 281 

Ogle's Reaper . " . 283 

Bell's Reaper . . . . . . . . . . 284 

Bell's Reaper at Work . . . . . . . . 291 

Hussey's Harvester Finger .... 1 ... 292 

McCormick Reaper, 1834 . 295 

McCormick Reaper, 1845 300 

McCormick Reaper Shown at the Great Exhibition, London, 

1851 303 

Typewriter, First Patent, Sholes, Glidden, and Soule, 1868 . 325 
Foucault's Printing Key Frame, by Which the Blind may 

Write 327 

Sholes Typewriter, 1873 328 

A Note to Edwin J. Ingersoll on an Early Sholes Machine . 329 

Saint's Sewing Machine, 1790 339 

The First Howe Sewing Machine ...... 350 

Chain-stitch and Lock-stitch 359 

Wilson's Rotary Hook in Four Phases of Forming a Stitch . 364 

Tilghman Sand Blast 382 

The Tilghman Sand Blast Machine 383 

Etching with Sand from a Hopper 385 

Linotype Matrix . 396 

Line of Matrices with Justifiers Between the Words . . 396 

A Line o' Type (Slug) 397 

Distributor Bar and Matrices . . . . . . . 397 

Diagram of Linotype Machine 398 

Mold Wheel and Melting Pot 399 

A Transfer Sheet. Charles T. Moore 407 



Linotype. First Band Machine of 1883 ..... 412 

Mergenthaler's Graduated Wedge Justifier .... 414 

Linotype. First Direct Casting Band Machine of 1884 . . 414 
Linotype. First Machine with Independent or free Matrices 

of 1885 . . . .-.''. . . ' * . . 420 

Linotype. Tribune Machine of 1886 ... -. . . . 422 

The Linotype Machine, 1889 . . * . . . 428 

Two Wedges in Contact, Their Outer Edges Parallel . . 429 

J. W. Schuckers Double Wedge Justifier . , 430 



A BIRD builds its nest from an impulse which fills its 
heart. A like instinct, every whit as compelling, urges a 
Mergenthaler to create a composing machine. He con- 
ceives its plan, and, while his wheels and levers unite under 
his touch, he sees how he can remodel every part from base 
to crest. This rebuilding is no sooner accomplished than 
the machine is cast into the melting-pot, to emerge with a 
new pace and precision. If, incidentally, this man of ex- 
periment can earn his bread, well and good, but there may 
be no gold in the horizon which allures him. It is enough 
that his new devices glide together with the harmony and 
economy of his dreams. 

But among inventors we meet men of a wholly different 
stamp. First and last, they are pioneers who descry new 
worlds for industrial conquest. To plant, till, and water 
these empires they need new tools, machines, and engines. 
These they build, not for the joy of building, as might your 
instinctive inventor, but simply as means to the mastery of a 
continent, with fibers of gainful service reaching every home 
in the land. Preeminent in this company of industrial 
chieftains in America stand John Stevens and his son, Rob- 
ert Livingston Stevens, who seized a supreme opportunity 
as they yoked steam as a burden-bearer on land and sea. 
They were themselves engineers of original talent, and this 
gave them a fellow-feeling with the engineering fraternity 
not always found in the councils of great firms and corpora- 
tions. Of course, such men, however ingenious and skilful, 
never rise to such a triumph as the steam condenser of James 
Watt. In their schemes invention is always the servant 



of enterprise, and not for a moment its master. From the 
best engineering practice of their day the Stevenses chose 
this device, or that method, with a judgment cooled and 
steadied by the responsibilities of large investments. Where 
original inventions were demanded, these they created, all to 
rear units for trade and commerce wholly new, units so 
daring that men of narrow outlook and restricted means 
would never have called them into being. 

Goodyear, Howe, and Mergenthaler, beset by chronic 
poverty, in building their models were obliged to limit them- 
selves to dimes when they should have laid out dollars. Not 
so with the Stevens family : their work from the outset drew 
upon every source of aid and comfort. Before they touched 
a drawing-board with a pencil, they could fully learn the 
state of the art in which they meant to take new strides: 
they could confer with their peers in engineering circles 
both at home and abroad. Mechanics of the highest skill 
stood ready to carry their plans into effect with despatch. 
When their experiments turned out well, as they usually 
did, there was no weary waiting in the ante-rooms of cap- 
ital that their ventures might be adopted. The Stevenses 
were themselves men of wealth, so that when they launched 
a steamboat, its freight and passengers were ready to go on 
board. If they built a locomotive, they could also build a 
railroad to give it profitable traffic. Poverty as a sharpener 
of wits has had much and frequent praise. Let us sing a 
new song, this time unto wealth ! The race is not always to 
the impeded, and much sound fruit mellows in the sunshine, 
and nowhere else. The Stevenses were leaders whom other 
men were glad to follow, well aware that their path was 
free from obstacles, so that, in a following, more was to be 
won and more to be shared than under chieftains of less 
faculty and fortune. As America grows richer, we are 
likely to see more of this leadership on the part of wealthy 
and cultured men who, alive to their responsibilities, repay 


their debt to the nation by wise and faithful captaincy. 
There are many perplexities in productive and distributive 
economy, in governmental reform, largely created by ad- 
vances in applied science itself. For their solution, trained 
ability, backed by abundant means, is demanded. Better 
than a Board for such tasks may be an Individual Man, and 
no better prototype of him has appeared in this country 
than John Stevens, or his son, Robert Livingston Stevens, 
whom we are now to know. 

John Stevens was born in the city of New York in 1749. 
His grandfather came to New York early in the eighteenth 
century as a law officer of the British Crown, and afterward 
resided in Perth Amboy, then the principal town in Eastern 
New Jersey. John Stevens, a son of this Englishman, rose 
to distinction in public service. At Princeton he was vice- 
president of the Council convened on August 27, 1776, by 
the first Legislature of New Jersey. So well did he serve 
that he was chosen to preside over the Council of Eastern 
New Jersey proprietors. Next he was elected a Member 
of Congress for New Jersey, and president of the State 
Convention, which met on December n, 1787, to consider 
the National Constitution, duly adopted eleven days there- 
after by New Jersey, as the third commonwealth to do so. 
He was the delegate from his State to present this ratifica- 
tion to Congress. Here, plainly, was a man cast in a large 
mold, an administrator of acknowledged power, the first 
among equals to lay foundations broad and deep for his 
State and his country. In the tpme of this man questions as 
wide as America were discussed day by day, with hope for 
happy issues, with courage for whatever might befall. He 
was, moreover, a man of ample fortune, so that the talents 
of his children had generous and timely tilth, bringing to 
their best estate a fiber at once refined and strong. 

John Stevens took to wife Mary Alexander, of as good 
blood as himself. She was a daughter of the Honorable 


James Alexander, Surveyor-General of New York and New 
Jersey. This worthy had gifts as an amateur student of 
the heavens ; for years he corresponded with Edmund Hal- 
ley, the English astronomer. John Stevens, as son of this 
pair, was born, as we have said, in New York in 1749. 
During 1762 and 1763 he attended Kenersly's College in 
Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Thence he passed to Columbia 
College, New York, where he was graduated in 1768. 
Among his classmates were three lifelong friends, who rose 
to eminence, Gulian Verplanck, as an author; Gouverneur 
Morris, in public life; and Benjamin Moore, who became 
the second bishop of New York. With the best academic 
training of his day, young Stevens took up the study of law, 
receiving his license as an attorney on May i, 1772. Law, 
however, he never practised ; but his legal discipline inured 
throughout his life to an uncommon clarity of deduction 
and of statement. He early entered heart and soul into his 
father's convictions regarding the new-born Union, and the 
defense it should command. In 1776 he became a Captain 
in Colonel Beaver's Battalion ; he was soon the Colonel of a 
regiment of his own. Like his father, he was marked for 
public trusts at an early age. From 1777 to 1782 he was 
the faithful and honored Treasurer of New Jersey, a post 
which broadened his knowledge of business while it matured 
his executive faculty. 

Toward the close of his term of office, on October 17, 
1782, Colonel Stevens married Miss Rachel Cox of Blooms- 
bury, New Jersey. Soon afterward the wedded pair re- 
moved to New York, establishing their home in the house 
vacated by the Colonel's father at 7 Broadway, opposite 
Bowling Green. Here the Colonel and his family resided 
until 1814, for thirty-one years. In March, 1784, Colonel 
Stevens bought for ninety thousand dollars the confiscated 
lands of William Bayard, a Tory, across the Hudson River, 
comprising what was then the Island of Hoboken. In addi- 


tion he purchased a large adjoining tract of land in Wee- 
hawken. Soon after these acquisitions, Colonel Stevens 
built a homestead on the site of the present Castle. Here 
he lived every summer until 1814, when this became his 
residence the year round. He cultivated his grounds with 
keen and intelligent interest, planting many fruit trees new 
to the region. His library was one of the best in America 
for its day. Here philosophy and religion, history and biog- 
raphy, travels and poetry, were not the mere ornaments of 
handsome shelves, but well-thumbed tomes, furnishing and 
refreshing a brain of uncommon activity. Then, as now, the 
windows of the Stevens homestead commanded a full view 
of the city erf New York, distant no more than a mile. 
Colonel Stevens as early as 1824 proposed that his estate 
should become a park for the metropolis, for which its easy 
accessibility and long shore-line fitted it admirably. But his 
suggestion met with no response. In 1911, however, the 
Palisades Park, to stretch for fifty miles along the Hudson 
River, was planned for Greater New York, one of its com- 
missioners being Edwin A. Stevens II., a grandson of 
Colonel Stevens. 

So long as Colonel Stevens maintained a home at 7 
Broadway, near the Battery, his sole means of reaching 
Hoboken was a boat impelled by oars or a sail. In fine 
weather nothing could be pleasanter. In a fog or a storm, 
the trip was perilous and uncomfortable. No wonder, then, 
that he listened with both ears to reports that John Fitch 
was running a steamboat on the Delaware. Why could not 
the same feat be accomplished on the Hudson? Steam 
engines for years had driven the huge pumps of Cornish 
mines ; they were now entering upon the less arduous task 
of propelling canal barges and excursion boats. One 
memorable morning in 1787, about a year before Syming- 
ton's success on the Forth and Clyde Canal, Colonel Stevens 
saw Fitch's little craft as she sped between Burlington and 


Trenton, New Jersey. There and then he was convinced 
that steam could far outvie sails or the tense muscles of 
horses or men. Fitch, poor man, had fallen into a cardinal 
error of design. His mechanism directly imitated manual 
toil, his oars swept the water much as if pushed by an oars- 
man's thews, and this while rotary paddle-wheels had pro- 
pelled his first models. In 1788 these wheels appeared in 
Symington's steamer on. the Clyde. Fitch's piston was one 
foot in diameter, with a stroke of three feet. Each turn of 
his axle-tree moved its oars through five and a half feet. As 
six oars came out of the water, the other six entered the 
water, each having a stroke like that of a canoe-paddle. 
When all went well, six miles an hour was the pace at- 
tained. But the machinery was so roughly made, so badly 
fitted together, that interruptions were frequent and repairs 
costly, so that Fitch's backers became disheartened, and his 
enterprise was abandoned. He stands a pathetic type of the 
inventor with much initiative and no staying power. But 
while his steamboat was in itself a failure, it had given 
Colonel Stevens a golden impulse. With characteristic 
promptitude he petitioned the Legislature of New Jersey 
to place a steam engine on board a vessel by way of ex- 
periment. He then informed himself as to the difficulties 
which had thwarted Fitch, that these might be avoided. His 
plans, carefully drawn, were handed to the official commis- 
sioners and a patent was granted to him on September 6, 
1791. To grant a patent required a Patent Office, and this 
was founded at the instance of Colonel Stevens for the ex- 
press purpose of duly guarding his rights in this invention. 
At first he used a horizontal wheel. This he soon abandoned 
for elliptical paddles, which were tested as well as their 
faulty machinery would allow. His steam engine was 
copied from a design of James Watt, by an engine-builder 
who had been long in the service of Boulton & Watt. 
Colonel Stevens wished to avoid the alternating stroke of 


this model, so he devised a rotary engine, which he thus 
describes : 

" A cylinder of brass, about eight inches in diameter, and 
four inches long, was placed horizontally on the bottom of 
the boat. By the alternate pressure of the steam on two 
sliding wings, an axis passing through the center was made 
to revolve. On one end of this axis, which passed through 
the stern of the boat, wings like those on the arms of a wind- 
mill were fixed, adjusted to the angle most advantageous for 
operating on the water [as a propeller]. This constituted 
the whole of the machinery. Working with the elasticity of 
steam merely, no condenser, no air-pump, was necessary. 
And as there were no valves, no apparatus was required to 
open and shut valves. This simple little engine was, in the 
summer of 1802, placed on board a flat-bottomed boat I had 
built for the purpose. This boat was about twenty-five feet 
long, and five or six feet wide. She occasionally kept go- 
ing until cold weather stopped us. When the engine was 
in the best order, her velocity was about four miles an hour. 
I found it, however, impracticable on so contracted a scale to 
preserve due tightness in the packing of the wings in the 
cylinder for any length of time. This determined me to 
resort again to the reciprocating engine. But the unsuc- 
cessful experiment in which I had been engaged with Chan- 
cellor Livingston and Mr. Roosevelt had taught me the in- 
disputable necessity of guarding against the injurious ef- 
fects of partial pressure, and, accordingly, I constructed an 
engine, although differing much from those described in my 
patents, yet so modified as to embrace completely the prin- 
ciple stated therein. During the winter this small engine 
was set up in a shop I then occupied at the Manhattan 
Works, and continued occasionally in operation until spring, 
when it was placed aboard the above-mentioned boat, and 
by means of bevel cogged wheels it worked the axis and 
wheels above described, and gave the boat somewhat more 
velocity than the rotary engine. But after having gone 
some time in crossing the river, with my son on board, the 
boiler, which was constructed of small tubes inserted at 
each end into metal heads, gave way, so as to be incapable 
of repair. 


In 1804, Colonel Stevens planned a ferryboat to be driven 
by a steam engine of modified design. To bore its two cylin- 
ders, each sixteen inches in diameter, he erected a boring 
machine in Hoboken. Both the furnace and the boiler of 
this boat proved faulty, and she was dismantled. Her cylin- 
ders afterward did duty on the Phoenix, to be presently 

Colonel Stevens, in successful practice, originated many 
distinctive features for steamboats. He thus set them forth : 

1. The cylinder, condenser, and air-pump are all firmly 
bedded upon a single plate of cast-iron, and the power of 
the engine exerted without causing strain to any part of 
the boat. 

2. The air-pump has a double stroke, and its piston pumps 
out the injection water from the bottom of the condenser 
when the piston rises, and by exhaustion removes the air 
from the top of the water as the piston descends. 

3. A new parallel motion for preserving the vertical posi- 
tion of the piston rod of the air-pump. 

4. A new method of fixing the valve-seats with firmness 
and accuracy. 

5. Valves with perforated stems passing through from 
the upper seat downwards, and from the lower seat 

6. The levers for opening and shutting the valves are 
worked by a rotary motion, instead of the reciprocating mo- 
tion of the common plug frame, the working gear of which 
is liable to get out of order. 

7. The guide-posts are triangular, greatly increasing their 
strength and firmness. 

8. By means of a cylinder placed above, between the two 
main cylinders of which the boiler is built, a supply of 
water is furnished to the boiler whenever it is necessary to 
stop the engine. This contrivance, if the stop is not very 
long," prevents the safety valve from rising and making a 
loud noise, and thus avoids loss of steam and heat ; while 
the engine is going it furnishes more steam room to the 

" It is very true," he says, " that I now make use of water- 




wheels on each side of the boat. It is surely very far from 
my intention to attempt to invalidate Mr. Fulton's claim to 
water-wheels thus applied. It is an unquestionable fact that 
he was the first person who, for any practical useful pur- 
pose, applied water-wheels on each side of a steamboat. 

" It may not be amiss to mention that in 1807, when the 
North River steamboat [Fulton's Clcrmont] made her first 
appearance on the waters of the Hudson, I constructed an 
engine and boat on a very small scale, namely fifteen feet 
long, and four-and-a-half feet wide. To this boat, consider- 
ing her size, I gave the astonishing velocity at times of not 
less than six miles an hour. To be sure, she had water- 
wheels on each side. That her extraordinary velocity was 
not owing to this circumstance is evident from the fact of 
her going, notwithstanding every disadvantage, much faster 
than the North River steamboat. . . ." 

Concurrently with this small vessel Colonel Stevens built 
the Phoenix, which, but for the monopoly held by Livingston 
and Fulton, would have plied on the Hudson River. The 
rivalry between the Phoenix and Fulton's Clermont was 
close. To the credit of the Phoenix stands the fact that her 
engines were built in America, whereas those of the Cler- 
mont were imported from England. The Phoenix was 
excluded from New York, but the port of Philadelphia was 
open to her. Accordingly, by sea, to Philadelphia Robert 
L. Stevens took her, embarking one afternoon in June, 
1808. A fierce storm was encountered. A schooner in her 
company was blown out to sea, and was not heard from for 
nearly a fortnight, but the Phoenix made a safe harbor at 
Barnegat, whence, when the storm abated, she proceeded 
to Philadelphia, and plied many years between that city 
and Trenton. Mr. Stevens thus earned the honor of being 
the first to brave the ocean in a craft propelled by steam. 

The next steamer built by John Stevens was the Juliana, 
a ferryboat, launched in 1811. She was an undecked open 
boat, 62 feet in length and 12 in breadth, drawing from 2^2 
to 3 feet of water. Her engines were of the model patented 


by her builder, having a cylinder of 14 inches diameter and 
30 inches stroke. Her boilers and flues were of copper. 
Her steam was used expansively, being cut off in the main 
valves as in modern practice. Her furnace and flue were 
suspended on a frame-work of cast-iron, conducing to safety 
from fire, and superseding much heavy brickwork. The 
Juliana rose to a speed of seven miles an hour. Robert Ful- 
ton, having exclusive rights in the Jersey City ferry, would 
not allow the Juliana to run between New York and Ho- 
boken, so she was placed on the route betwixt Middletown 
and Hartford, on the Connecticut River, being the first 
steamer to navigate Long Island Sound, as her cousin, the 
Phoenix, had been the first, in 1808, to navigate the ocean 
from Sandy Hook to the mouth of the Delaware River. 

John Stevens, taking a comprehensive survey of steam 
practice, clearly saw that great economy lay in using high 
pressures, especially with expansion gear. But an obstacle 
which had confronted James Watt remained in the path of 
his American successor. Workmanship in those days was 
inadequate to the task of tightly riveting a large boiler to 
resist high pressure. A means of avoiding this difficulty 
was to revive and improve an old invention, a boiler 
which, instead of being formed of one huge cylinder, was 
built of many long narrow cylinders, or mere tubes, each of 
which could be produced perfectly tight, while so thin as to 
have its contained water quickly heated by an impinging 
flame. The first boiler of this kind on record was devised 
in 1766, by William Blakey, an Englishman. He connected 
together several water-tubes in a furnace, alternately in- 
clined at opposite angles, and united at their contiguous 
ends by smaller pipes. This design was improved by 
James Rumsey, an American pioneer in steamboating. He 
patented, in 1788, several forms of this boiler. One had a 
firebox with flat water-sides and top, across which were 
horizontal water-tubes connected with the water-spaces. 


Another was a coiled tube within a cylindrical firebox, con- 
nected at its two ends with the annular surrounding water- 
space. This was the first " coil boiler." A third type was 
the vertical tubular boiler, as built to-day. John Stevens' 
design was patented in Great Britain in 1805, by his son, 
John Cox Stevens, who said: 

" The principle of this invention consists in forming a 
boiler by combining a number of small vessels, or tubes, in- 
stead of using a single large one. . . . Suppose a plate of 
brass one foot square, in which a number of holes are per- 
forated, into each of which holes is fixed one end of a 
copper tube, of about one inch in diameter and two feet in 
length ; the other ends of these tubes being inserted in like 
manner in a similar piece of brass. In order to insure tight- 
ness, these tubes are to be cast in the plates ; these plates are 
to be inclosed at each end of the pipes, and the cast-iron 
cap at each end ; the caps at each end are to be fastened by 
screw-bolts passing through them into the plates. The 
water supply is to be injected by a forcing pump into 
the cap at one end, and through a tube inserted into 
the cap at the other end the steam is to be conveyed 
to the steam cylinder of the engine. The whole is then to 
be inclosed in brickwork or masonry in the usual manner, 
placed either horizontally or perpendicularly at option." 

In adopting and improving the water-tube boiler, Mr. 
Stevens showed his wonted sagacity. Since his day its 
advantages have been fully realized in improved designs. 
Let us remark how it excels a boiler of the fire-tube model : 
First of all, the flames rush across its tubes, so that they 
are much more thoroughly and quickly heated than if the 
fire merely glided along their length. A fire-tube ac- 
cumulates dust, ashes, and soot on its inside surface, with 
risk of utter choking. These deposits attach themselves, 
and in much less quantity, to the outside of a water-tube, 
whence they are easily removed. All the joints of a water- 
tube boiler may be placed elsewhere than in the hottest parts 


of the fire, exposing the structure as a whole to much less 
strain than befalls a fire-tube boiler. A water-tube boiler 
has also a much larger draft area than its rival. The sole 
reason why a fire-tube boiler retains its hold of the market 
is that it is simpler and cheaper to manufacture than its 
vastly more efficient competitor. 

As remarkable as this adoption and improvement of the 
sectional boiler, was John Stevens' modification of the screw 
propeller. He thus describes it in addressing Robert Hare, 
Junior, of Philadelphia, on November 16, 1805 : 

". . . To the extremity of an axis passing nearly in a 
horizontal direction through the stem of the boat, are fixed 
a number of arms with wings like those of a windmill or 
smoke jack. These arms may be readily adjusted, so that 
the most advantageous obliquity of their angle may be at- 
tained after a few trials. The principle of an oblique stroke 
is the same as in the scull but the continuity of movement 
in the wings gives them greatly the advantage over the 
alternation in the sculls, both in the loss of time and in the 
resistance of the fluid to change of motion. Besides that, 
this change of motion must give to the boat a wriggling 
movement, with a tendency to lift and lower, by turns, the 
stern of the boat. The sculls would also be liable to be 
affected by the swells in rough water, and, like the paddles 
I had thought of using, would be an awkward appendage 
to the stern of a boat. The consideration which determined 
me, when I saw you last, to try the paddles was merely 
to avoid the necessity of giving the boat a draught of water 
too great for passing the overslough near Albany, but this 
objection to the use of wheels I expect to obviate by an 
increase in their number and a consequent diminution of 
their diameter. Indeed, it is absolutely necessary to have at 
least two revolving in opposite directions to prevent the 
tendency to rotation which a single wheel gives to a boat. 

" Since you were here I have made a fair experiment on 
the wheel compared with oars. Two men were placed at 
two cranks by which a wheel in the stern of the boat was 
turned; with a stopwatch the time of passing over a given 
distance was precisely ascertained. After making a sufft- 

[From a photograph of the rebuilt boat containing the original machinery.] 


cient number of trials the wheel was taken off and the 
same men were furnished with oars. The result of re- 
peated trials was a few seconds in favor of the wheel. It 
is unnecessary to observe that the wheel must have worked 
to much disadvantage. The proper angle of obliquity was 
not attended to, besides the wings were made with a flat 
surface, whereas a certain curve was necessary. And in 
order to give a due immersion to the wheel, its axis was in- 
clined 30 to 40 degrees below the horizontal line. The 
machinery, too, was put up in a very coarse manner. One 
important consideration in favor of these wheels is the facil- 
ity with which they can be defended from all external in- 
jury by placing them in the stern. My foreman promises 
to have the engines going in the boat in about two weeks 
from this time." * 

Colonel Stevens for six years, ending with 1806, sought 
to establish steam navigation by the screw propeller, en- 
deavoring to introduce (i) the short four-bladed screw, 
(2) steam at high pressure, (3) multitubular boilers, (4) 
quick-moving engines directly connected to propeller shafts, 
(5) twin screws. 

* Francis B. Stevens, grand-nephew of Colonel John Stevens, in 
the Stevens Indicator, April, 1893, said: 

"Colonel Stevens considered himself the inventor of the screw 
propeller. He was mistaken. It was proposed by the mathemati- 
cian, Daniel Bernouilli, in 1752. It is described by David Bushnell 
in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, in 1787, giving an account of his 
submarine boat, in which a screw propeller, worked by hand, was 
used. The same idea was afterward suggested by Franklin, Watt, 
Paucton, and others. Prior to 1802 the screw propeller was twice 
distinctly patented in England: first, by William Lyttleton, in 1794; 
second, by Edward Shorter, in 1800." 

John Bourne, in his "Treatise on the Screw Propeller," London, 
1867, mentions a prior patent, that of Joseph Bramah, issued May 9, 
1785. His propeller was "a wheel with inclined fans or wings, sim- 
ilar to the fly of a smokejack, or the vertical sails of a windmill. 
This wheel was to be fixed on the spindle of a rotary engine, and 
might be wholly under water, where it could be turned round either 
way, causing a ship to be forced forward or backward, as the incli- 
nation of the fans or wings might determine." 


Forty years had to elapse before these elements of suc- 
cess were adopted in ocean navigation. At the time of 
Colonel Stevens' experiments there were no competent 
workmen in America to construct the boilers and engines 
he planned. He had, therefore, to fall back upon the 
paddle-wheel as a propeller, with its slow-moving engine, 
whose boilers carried steam at only two or three pounds 
above atmospheric pressure. 

Speed soon became a prime consideration in steamboat- 
ing. At first Colonel John Stevens bestowed his attention 
wholly upon his motive power and machinery, giving little 
heed to the hulls of his vessels. In improving their lines, 
his son and associate, Robert, effected a notable advance. 
At first his father's steamers were little else than boxes 
with pointed ends. In the New Philadelphia, Robert 
Stevens introduced a false bow, long and sharp, which 
parted the water with a new facility. At once this vessel 
bounded forward at thirteen and a half miles an hour, a 
marvelous speed for that period, and even to-day a goodly 
pace. When the designer asked his shipbuilders, Brown & 
Bell, to construct this bow, they declined from fear of 
public ridicule. Mr. Bell said : " That bow will be called 
' Bell's nose,' and I will be a general laughing-stock." So 
Robert Stevens had to build the bow himself, with any- 
thing but laughter at the result. The New Philadelphia 
inaugurated a day line between Albany and New York. 
No predecessor of hers had ever run fast enough to com- 
plete a trip betwixt dawn and dusk. With her, too, began 
models which, in clipper sailers and steamers, won new 
records in speed. Of equal importance with the steam- 
boats plying between the metropolis and the capital of New 
York, were the steam ferries which joined New York City 
with the shores of New Jersey and Long Island. Until 
1810 only comfortless rowboats or pirogues offered a 
passage across the North and East Rivers. First as an im- 


provement came twin boats, with a central wheel turned, 
treadmill fashion, by horses. These horses were supplanted 
by steam, first by Fulton in a ferry to Jersey City, in 1812. 
Then came single boats with sidewheels, of which the first 
was the Hoboken, built in 1822 by Robert L. Stevens. In 
that year he introduced at his docks string piles which di- 
rected a boat as she entered her pier. One stormy night, 
Mr. Stevens' attention was called to a pilot as he stood at 
his wheel, wholly unprotected from beating rain. Mr. 
Stevens at once planned and built shelters for his pilots, the 
first to be provided for them. 

A thorn in the side of the Stevens family was the mo- 
nopoly granted by the State of New York to Robert Ful- 
ton and his partners, bestowing the exclusive right to steam- 
boat service on the waters of New York. After much 
preliminary skirmishing, this monopoly was attacked in 
February, 1824, in the Supreme Court of the United States, 
by Daniel Webster, in a masterly argument. Mr. Oakley, 
and Mr. Emmett, who had been a personal friend of Fulton, 
appeared in defense. Chief Justice John Marshall rendered 
a decision adverse to the monopoly, holding that the power 
vested in Congress, to regulate commerce, included power 
to regulate navigation. Said he : " The power to regulate 
commerce does not look to the principle by which boats are 
moved. That power is left to individual discretion. . . . 
The act demonstrates the opinion that steamboats may be 
enrolled and licensed in common with vessels having sails. 
They are, of course, entitled to the same privileges, and 
can no more be restrained from navigating waters and en- 
tering ports, which are free to such vessels, than if they 
were wafted on their voyage by the winds instead of being 
propelled by the agency of fire." Thus ended a monopoly 
which, during seventeen years, held back the progress of 
steam navigation in America, clearly proving the impolicy 
of rewarding enterprise by an exclusive privilege. 


His success with the Phoenix and her sister craft showed 
Colonel Stevens how mighty a stride steam could effect on 
waterways. He had long been convinced that a like gain 
could be reaped by steam as a motive power for travel on 
land. In 1810 the Legislature of New York appointed 
commissioners to examine the routes proposed for the Erie 
Canal, and to report upon the feasibility of that project. 
When Colonel Stevens read their report, which discussed 
a continuous inclined plane from Lake Erie to the Hudson 
River, to be fed by the waters of the lake, he urgently 
pressed upon the commissioners, as preferable in economy, 
speed, and rapidity of construction, a system of steam rail- 
ways. In 1812 he published his argument as a pamphlet, 
adding the objections of the commissioners, and his re- 
joinders. He said : 

" So many and so important are the advantages which 
these States would derive from the general adoption of the 
proposed railways, that they ought, in my humble opinion, 
to become an object of primary attention to the national 
government. The insignificant sum of $2,000 to $3,000 
would be adequate to give the project a fair trial. On the 
success of this experiment a plan should be digested, a gen- 
eral system of internal communication and conveyance be 
adopted, and the necessary surveys be made for the ex- 
tension of these ways in all directions, so as to embrace and 
unite every section of this extensive empire. It might then, 
indeed, be said that these States would then constitute one 
family, intimately connected and held together in bonds 
of indissoluble union. 

". . . To the rapidity of the motion of a steam carriage 
on these railways, no definite limit can be set. The flying 
proas of the islands in the Pacific Ocean are said at times 
to sail more than twenty miles an hour ; but as the resistance 
of water to the progress of a vessel increases as the square 
of its velocity, it is obvious that the power required to propel 
her must also be increased in the same ratio. Not so with 
a steam carriage; as it moves in a fluid eight hundred times 
rarer than water, the resistance is proportionately dimin- 


ished. Indeed, the principal resistance arises from friction, 
which does not even increase in a direct ratio with the 
velocity of the carriage. If, then, a proa can be driven 
by the wind (the propulsive power of which is constantly 
diminishing as the velocity of the proa increases), through 
so dense a fluid as water, at twenty miles an hour, I can see 
nothing to hinder a steam carriage from moving on these 
ways at one hundred miles an hour. . . . This astonishing 
velocity is considered here as merely possible. It is prob- 
able that it may not, in practice, be convenient to exceed 
twenty or thirty miles an hour. Actual experience, how- 
ever, can alone determine this matter, and I should not be 
surprised at seeing steam carriages propelled at forty to 
fifty miles an hour." 

The Erie Canal was built, notwithstanding the arguments 
of influential opponents led by Colonel Stevens. Year by 
year he closely followed the developments in railroad loco- 
motion in England, resolved that he should have a leading 
part in promoting like projects at home. For this a door 
stood open before him. Philadelphia and New York, in 
an airline but ninety miles apart, even at that early day 
transacted a huge business with one another. Added to 
this was the trade of intervening towns and villages, steadily 
growing in population and wealth. The Stevens family, 
as men of enterprise and capital, had developed the traffic 
on this highway until almost the whole rested in their hands. 
As far back as 1795 Colonel Stevens had designed a steam 
locomotive, which he had hoped to patent during the ad- 
ministration of President Washington. His great difficulty 
was to provide a track strong enough to support the heavy 
low-pressure engine of that day. In 1817 he obtained a 
charter from the State of New Jersey " to build a railroad 
from the river Delaware, near Trenton, to the river Raritan, 
near New Brunswick." No action followed the granting 
of his charter, as its project was deemed visionary. But 
Colonel Stevens never for a moment relaxed his labors on 
behalf of steam railroads. In 1823, with Stephen Girard 


and Horace Binney as his associates, he projected a rail- 
road from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, 
which resulted in the incorporation of the Pennsylvania 
Railroad Company, twenty-three years before the present 
corporation was chartered. In 1826 Colonel Stevens built 
at his own cost the first steam locomotive that ran on rails in 
America. This engine was furnished with a sectional boiler 
of high efficiency, and coursed upon a circular track laid 
within a few hundred yards of the present Stevens Institute. 
This was three years before Horatio Allen ran the 
" Stourbridge Lion " at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and 
nearly four years before Stephenson won his prize with the 
" Rocket " at Rainhill in England. 

About 1829, Colonel Stevens conceived a bold project, 
which, duly modified, forty years afterward was developed 
as the elevated railroad system of New York. He sketched 
a scheme for a railway starting from the Battery, and pro- 
ceeding along Greenwich or Washington Street, to a suit- 
able spot opposite Castle Point, Hoboken, and from an 
elevated structure there to cross the Hudson River upon a 
high bridge made chiefly of Manila hemp, supported by 
several piers. The track was to be " supported on pillars 
of stone, iron, or wood, placed near the curb stones, and 
elevated about ten or twelve feet above the pavement/' 
After crossing the river, the railway was to proceed over 
Bergen Hill to the Little Falls of the Passaic River. The 
real objective point was Philadelphia, and thence to Wash- 
ington. Stoves were to be erected on the bridge, and a 
supply of pure water was to cross with it brought from 
Little Falls. 

It was not in this bold project, but in ordinary railroad- 
ing, that Colonel Stevens was to engage. Less ambitious 
than the proposed line from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was 
a scheme requiring comparatively small outlay, to provide 
a short railroad which should complete a steam route be- 


tween New York and Philadelphia. These cities were at 
that time joined by the Union Line in three links : 

Steamboat route from Philadelphia to Trenton. . 36 miles 
Turnpike for stage and wagons, Trenton to New 

Brunswick 25 

Steamboat route, New Brunswick to New York. 40 " 

101 miles 

To build a railroad between Trenton and New Bruns- 
wick, twenty-five miles, and capture the traffic carried by 
horse-drawn vehicles, was a most inviting enterprise for 
Colonel Stevens, his family, and his wealthy associates. 
In 1830, accordingly, at their instance, the Camden & Am- 
boy Railroad Company was incorporated. Robert L. 
Stevens was appointed its president; his brother, Edwin 
Augustus, was chosen its treasurer and general manager. 
As a first step toward building the line, Robert L. Stevens 
posted to England, where, since 1825, the railway be- 
tween Stockton and Darlington had been successfully 
operated with locomotives designed by the Stephensons. 
Before leaving home he resolved to adopt an iron rail as 
better than a wooden rail, or than the stone stringer thinly 
plated with iron, which his Company had laid by way of 
experiment. There was then no mill in America to roll 
T-rails, and as both iron and labor were scarce and dear 
in the United States, Mr. Stevens wished to lay a rail 
which would need no chair to hold it in place. During his 
voyage across the Atlantic he whittled bits of wood into 
varied rail contours, at last carving a form in which a broad 
and firm base was added to a T-rail, so as to give it a con- 
tinuous foot, or flange, dispensing with chairs. In this he 
carried forward by an important step the advantages pre- 
sented in the rail suggested by Thomas Tredgold in 1825, 
which had a base comparatively narrow. 


On landing in Liverpool, he asked for bids on five hun- 
dred tons of such a rail as he had whittled, since known by 
his name the world over. As first designed, the base of this 
rail was wider at its points of support than elsewhere. 
Afterward it was rolled throughout with a uniform breadth 
of three inches. The first shipment, which reached Phila- 
delphia on the ship Charlemagne on May 18, 1831, com- 
prised 350 bars, each 18 feet long, weighing 36 pounds to 
the yard. It was soon found that heavier rails were less 

B b 

a A 

An enlarged section of an Edge-rail to show the disposition of 
parts which gives greatest strength. If the rectangle a b d c con- 
tains the same quantity, the strength of the rail A B D C is to the 
strength in the form of the rectangle as i^ is to i. 

[From "A Practical Treatise on Railroads and Carriages." By Thomas 
Tredgold, New York, 1825.] 

yielding, so that weights were increased forthwith to be- 
tween 40 and 42 pounds to the yard. These new 
rails were 16 feet long, 3^ inches high, 2% inches wide 
at the head, and 3^2 inches ;wide at the base. They were 
rolled by Sir John Guest at Dowlais, in Wales, at eight 
pounds sterling ($38.93) per ton. 

Mr. Stevens added to his rails several auxiliary devices 
of importance. He designed the iron tongue, or toe-piece, 
which has become the fish-plate, as well as the bolts and nuts 
which give unity and rigidity to track construction. When 
he called upon the Stephensons they showed him their 


" Planet," introducing marked improvements on the 
" Rocket." Mr. Stevens at once ordered a like engine for 
the Camden & Amboy line. This engine, the " John Bull," 
was landed in August, 1831. It weighed 10 tons; its boiler 
was 13 feet long and 3^ feet in diameter. Its cylinders 
were 9 inches by 20; its firebox had a surface of 36 square 
feet; its four driving-wheels ran on a gauge of five feet. 
Water and fuel were borne on a rough four-wheeled flat 
car; the tank had been a whisky barrel in a Bordentown 
grocery. The boiler hose of leather had been stitched by 
a local shoemaker. Liberal supplies of pine generated a 
steam pressure of thirty pounds to the square inch. The 
first run of this locomotive took place near Bordentown on 
a track 1,067 ^ eet l n g> wrtn rails laid on stone blocks. 
Here a demonstration was given to the assembled law- 
makers of New Jersey, much to their amazement and de- 
light. On October 9, 1831, the line from Bordentown to 
Hightstown, twelve miles, was opened for traffic. Two 
months later the road was completed to Amboy, but loco- 
motives were not used until August, 1833, when an adequate 
number were ready for service. 

The early records of this Camden & Amboy line present 
the trial or adoption of many devices since familiar, the 
first pilot, or cowcatcher, was planned and placed by Mr. 
Stevens in 1832. During that year he began to spike rails 
directly to his cross-ties. Soon afterward he introduced the 
bogie-truck, borrowing its vertical axle from a common 
wagon, greatly easing movement around short curves. He 
designed a vestibuled car, such as, in a developed model, is 
now operated by the Pullman Company. He began experi- 
ments in the chemical preservation of wood, doubling the 
life of his ties. Amusing are many incidents of those 
pioneer times. During the first months of business, a man 
on a fast horse went ahead of the train to clear its track 
and warn off trespassers. One of the Stevens brothers 


owned a fine stud, so that a quick steed was always ready 
to make safe the path for the rival horse of iron. On one of 
its first trips, the "John Bull " came upon a curve at undue 
speed. As track builders had not yet learned to raise the 
outer rail at curves, the engine left its line and slid down 
an embankment into an adjoining field, where half a dozen 
farmhands were cradling wheat. They fled instanter, nor 
did their panic cease until they had placed two hundred 
yards between themselves and the pursuing monster. 

In America the first business for railroads was to carry 
coals, just as with their forerunners in England long before. 
As far back as 1602 wooden railways joined collieries at 
Newcastle to docks on the Tyne. Nicholas Wood, in his 
" Practical Treatise on Railroads," published in 1838, quotes 
from a description in 1676: " The manner of carriage is by 
laying rails of timber from the colliery to the river, exactly 
straight and parallel. Bulky carts are made with four 
rollers fitting these rails, whereby the carriage is so easy 
that one horse will draw four to five chaldrons of coals, 
two-and-a-half times as much as if a load were drawn upon 
a common road." First of American railroads worth while 
was triat built at Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, to carry an- 
thracite for the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. Its 
length was 12 24 miles. Next came the Quincy Railroad, 
near Boston, about three miles in extent, completed in 1826 
for the conveyance of granite. The South Carolina Rail- 
road, begun in 1829, finished in 1832, came next. Then 
followed this Camden & Amboy Railroad : its first division, 
from Camden, opposite Philadelphia, to Bordentown, was 
34*/2 miles; its second division, from Bordentown to Am- 
boy, was 26^ miles. This line, a double track, was laid at 
a cost of $1,466,376.64. It was profitable from its first day, 
under the control of Edwin A. Stevens. His ability was 
manifest early in his career: at twenty-five his family 
gave him charge of the larger part of their property. Dur- 


ing the thirty-five years of his railroad administration he 
allied himself with the best engineering talent in America. 
His own faculty in this province made him at once a com- 
petent judge and a whole-hearted cooperator. 

While still a young man, with the aid of his brother Rob- 
ert, he invented a cast-iron plow. Its moldboard was so 
curved as always to scour, and leave no earth sticking to 
its surface. Ribs were cast on its interior, insuring 
strength with lightness. On the bottom of the landside a 
heel-piece was attached : when worn out, it could be replaced 
by a new one in a few minutes. This plow for years en- 
joyed a large sale. 

Some years after its invention, Robert L. Stevens per- 
fected his air-tight fire-room, patented in April, 1842. He 
arrived at this fire-room by steps worth retracing. In 1827 
he fitted the boilers of the North America with closed ash- 
pits, into which air for combustion was forced by a fan. 
In 1828, Ericsson in England installed a like fan in the 
Victory, commanded by Sir John Ross in an Arctic cruise. 
The brothers, Robert and Edwin Stevens, varied thrice their 
draft production. First, they sent a blast into a closed 
ashpit; second, they exhausted the base of their smoke- 
stack by a fan; third, they forced air into an air-tight 
stokehold. A nephew of the inventors, Francis B. Stevens, 
has said that when the closed ashpit was used, the blast 
pressure would often force the gases of combustion 
through the rims of the furnace-doors, so as greatly to 
distress the stokers. This suggested to Robert L. Stevens, 
in 1836, a horizontal screw ventilator turning on a vertical 
axis at the base of the smokestack of the Passaic. In 1837 
and 1838 the brothers tried an exhaust fan on a horizontal 
spindle in the chimney of one of their shops. This was so 
effective that they placed a sister fan in their steamboat 
Philadelphia, plying the Delaware River. The final method 
to which Edwin Stevens came was to drive air above at- 


mospheric pressure into an air-tight fire-room. This is the 
closed stokehold system of to-day. 

That system is the latest feat- in the long series that be- 
gan when a primeval Edison first blew a fire with his 
breath. He had a worthy successor in the son, or daughter, 
who 'seized a palm leaf and waved it as a fan. Ages there- 
after arose the devisers of leather bellows, such as linger 
to this day in country forges, or hang on the walls of mu- 
seums, with carved and studded woodwork. Incomparably 
better than any bellows are the rotary fans now whirling in 
every modern boiler-room. They render the engineer in- 
dependent of fitful winds, so that, in foggy weather, his fires 
burn as vividly as if a Northern gale were blowing. He is 
free to use peat, or coal of poor quality, or even the refuse 
from sugar cane, fuels that refuse to burn with an ordinary 
natural draft. With all fuels an improved combustion 
yields him a new economy of one-seventh, so that he may 
use a smaller boiler than would otherwise be required. 
Mechanical draft, also, lends itself to mechanical stoking. 
It prevents smoke. It shortens chimneys, or, indeed, dis- 
penses with chimneys altogether, to the joy of design- 
ers of men-of-war. 

Early in 1838, on March 6, while his sons iwere per- 
fecting their methods of mechanical draft, Colonel John 
Stevens passed away at the ripe age of eighty-nine. His 
remains were laid in the graveyard of the Dutch Reformed 
Church, Bergen, New Jersey. Toward the close of his life 
he turned with zest to metaphysical speculation. A volume 
which he planned was to have comprised thirty-six chapters. 
Of these he completed the first, on the skepticism of Hume, 
and part of the twenty-second, on " Matter, Body, and Ex- 
tension/' Long before that period he had been warmly in- 
terested in combating the epidemics which from time to 
time assailed New York. He had once been severely at- 
tacked by yellow fever, an ailment treated with unusual sue- 


cess by his friend and physician, Dr. David Hosack. On 
the Colonel's recovery he wrote a descriptive article about 
yellow fever in the American Medical and Philosophical 

Let us return to the achievements of his son, Robert, who, 
at the end of years of experiment, had perfected a system 
of forced draft. This was but one among many of his 
exploits as an engineer. His activity as an inventor began 
as early as 1814, and in the field of gunnery. For service 
in the war with Great Britain he devised an elongated shell 
for use with ordinary cannon. At the end of decisive ex- 
periments, his patents were bought by the War Department. 
On one occasion at Governor's Island, near the city of New 
York, a target of white oak, four feet thick, was destroyed 
by one of his shells weighing 200 pounds, and carrying 13 
pounds of gunpowder. He sealed each shell hermetically, 
so that no deterioration took place in storage. Some shells, 
twenty-five years after manufacture, had gunpowder ex- 
ploded beneath them, others were taken to high towers and 
dropped to rocks below, all without causing them to ex- 
plode. They were plunged into water, and placed in a can- 
non : upon striking their target they burst with devastating 

But it was in arts of peace that Robert L. Stevens was 
to win his chief laurels. He changed for the better every 
feature of his steamboats as first designed. He suspended 
their projecting guards from above by iron rods. He 
strengthened their frames with ties and braces, secured by 
screwbolts. By a judicious placing of diagonal knees of 
wood and iron he reduced weight while conferring rigidity 
on his hulls. In 1815, in the Philadelphia, he began to use 
steam expansively, doubling the value of his fuel. He was 
the first engineer to burn anthracite in a cupola furnace: 
he afterward adopted this fuel in his fast steamboats, begin- 
ning with the Passaic. He placed the boiler on the guards 


of his steamers, conducing to their steadiness, and facilitat- 
ing both coaling and stoking. In the Trenton he introduced 
divided paddle-wheels, with their lessened jar and quickened 
pace. Beginning with the Hoboken, he replaced the heavy 
walking-beam of cast-iron with the wrought-iron skeleton 
now universal, at once lighter and stronger. In the North 
America he introduced the hog frame, in which large tim- 
bers on each side prevented the vessel from bending or be- 
ing " hogged." This boat was so well contoured that she 
ran at fifteen miles an hour, the utmost speed of her day. 
In the New Philadelphia he placed steel spring bearings 
under the wheel shaft, and gave the engine, for the first 
time, valves perfectly balanced. He then braced the con- 
necting rod, so as to prevent its tremulous motion and add 
to its strength. A few months later he built a steamboat 
which might have been serviceable in Arctic seas, for it 
easily strode through heavy ice between Camden and Phila- 
delphia. His next task was to build a tubular boiler of new 
economy: its flames beat under the boiler and returned 
through its tubes. Leaky pistons had bothered him for 
years, wasting fuel and lowering speeds. This he over- 
came by making steam itself press his packing-rings against 
their pistons, with a tightness denied to steel springs or 
India rubber. With the aid of a nephew, Francis B. 
Stevens, he devised a cut-off by means of main valves 
worked by two eccentrics. In the same year, 1841, he in- 
vented for his locomotives a double-slide cut-off. This he 
afterward applied in large stationary engines. He greatly 
promoted the adhesion of his locomotive to their rails by 
giving them eight wheels instead of four or six, so that 
short curves were now turned with but slight friction on 

As a recreation amid so much hard work, Robert L. 
Stevens took up yachting. Here he exercised, with delight, 
the ingenuity which had won him fame and fortune in steam 

[From a portrait in the possession of Miss M. B. P. Garnett, Hoboken.] 


locomotion. In 1844 he built the big sloop Maria, with 
two centerboards and outside lead ballast. She was for 
years the fastest yacht in the world, and in many respects 
she was the prototype of the swiftest racing machines of 
to-day. She vanquished the America, which, in her turn, 
was victorious against every rival in British waters. In 
1860, the Maria, commanded by her owner, overhauled and 
sailed around the revenue cutter Harriet Lane, carrying the 
Prince of Wales, afterward King Edward VII. Until she 
foundered in the Gulf of Mexico in 1869, she remained at 
the head of her class. She was no feet in length; 26 feet 
wide 8 inches, in beam ; with a draft of 6 inches under her 
forefoot, increasing to a maximum of 5 feet 3 inches, aft. 
Her bow was long and hollow, and so sharp that where the 
bowsprit entered the hull the bows had to be widened. Her 
main boom, 100 feet long and 3 feet in diameter, was built 
hollow of doweled staves of white pine, bound together by 
iron hoops like p. barrel, and secured by iron trusses. In 
this feature, and in her outside lead, the Maria was many 
years in advance of her time. Her lead was poured into 
molds 5 inches deep, fixed outside on her bottom, conform- 
ing to the lines of the floor for a distance of 20 feet on 
each side of the keel. Her mainsail at the foot measured 
96 feet, and her jib the only headsail she carried 70 
feet. This was laced to a boom. The forward center- 
board was weighted with lead, and, when down, drew 
20 feet. Springs fitted to its base enabled it to touch ground 
without harm. Her speed was marvelous. In a piping 
breeze, in smooth water, she once scored 17 nautical miles 
an hour. In rough water her behavior was not so remark- 
able, so that the Swedish yacht Coquette once passed her 
in bad weather. Nineteen years later, in 1865, she was 
beaten by the Magic. The success of the Maria had much 
to do with founding the New York Yacht Club in the 
year of her launching. Every contest of this Club, at 


home and abroad, for years enlisted the keen interest of 
Robert L. Stevens and his brother, John Cox Stevens, one 
of the owners of the America, the first yacht to cross the 
Atlantic. John Cox Stevens was managing owner of the 
America at the winning of the America cup, retained by 
American yachts to the present day. Mr. Stevens was the 
first commodore of the New York Yacht Club. 

And now, to take up another naval feat of the Stevens 
family, we must hark backward to 1814, when, toward the 
close of the war with Great Britain, Colonel John Stevens 
projected a circular iron fort, to be rotated by steam, for the 
defense of the harbor of New York. He directed his son 
Edwin, then a youth of nineteen, to experiment with a six- 
pounder cannon fired against iron plates. Iron armor for 
a warrior's body had been worn from prehistoric times. In 
1530 the largest ship of that day, one of the fleet of the 
Knights of Saint John, was sheathed with lead so as to 
withstand every shot fired at her. Iron armor for vessels 
was patented by Thomas Gregg, of Pennsylvania, in 1814. 
No exemplification, however, of this armor is on record 
until 1841, when the United States was once again on the 
verge Of war with England. In that year Edwin A. Stevens 
reverted to his experiments of 1814. In a formal note to 
the War Department on August 13, 1841, he and his 
brother John presented a design recommended for a steam 
vessel of war. Its motive power should be out of the 
reach of shot and shell, and the vessel herself should be 
proof against attack. Instead of wood for construction, 
iron was to be employed, as much stronger and more re- 
sistant, weight for weight. In 1841 stout armor plate 
could not be rolled in America, so that comparatively thin 
plates were to be riveted in tile fashion on the sides of 
this projected ship. She should, moreover, be capable of 
high speed, so as to take any desired position with ease and 
certainty. To afford power with the minimum of fuel, her 


boilers were to be so strong as to resist high pressure, and 
their steam was to be used expansively. Her propeller was 
to be a Stevens screw, wholly submerged. 

Robert L. Stevens then proceeded to learn the thickness 
of plate necessary to withstand the various shot then em- 
ployed. From experiments at Bordentown he found that a 
target four and a half inches thick would resist a four- 
pound shot, then the heaviest missile of the United States 
Navy. He and his brother, John Cox Stevens, laid these 
results before President Tyler, who forthwith appointed a 
committee to continue experiments. These fully con- 
firmed the tests by the brothers Stevens. Thereupon Con- 
gress authorized the Secretary of the Navy to contract 
with Robert L. Stevens for an ironclad steamer, to be shot- 
and-shell-proof. With his brother Edwin, he began at 
once to plan and construct this vessel. One of their first 
tasks was to build a dry-dock at Hoboken for their ship. 
Next they built at Bordentown a steamboat for the purpose 
of experimenting with screw propellers of various curves, 
which they compared with sidewheels as to efficiency. 
While thus engaged they devised a method of turning a 
vessel on a pivot, as it were, by a cross-propeller near her 
stern, so that, in case one battery of a warship were dis- 
abled, the other might be quickly presented. 

At that time there had been but little advance in gun- 
power since the victory of Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805. 
But when Commodore Stockton, after the failure of his first 
gun in 1844, had introduced a wrought-iron gun of British 
make, whose round shot easily pierced four and a half inches 
of iron, Robert L. Stevens had to thicken his armor, and this 
meant enlarging his ship so as to keep afloat her heavier 
burden. There and then began for the navies of the world 
their unending duel betwixt gun and armor. As guns of 
new might were cast, new resisters were imperative on the 
part of Mr. Stevens. Hence interruptions without number, 


entailing delay after delay, and asking outlays far beyond 
those authorized by Congress. Thus it came about that 
when Robert L. Stevens died in 1856, his warship was still 
unfinished, although her plating was complete, and her boil- 
ers were in place, with their twin-screw engines. Her 
grates exposed a surface of 876 square feet, an area then 
extraordinary. As she lay at her basin in Hoboken, she 
measured 410 feet in length, 45 feet in beam inside her 
armor shelf, with her deck two feet above the water ; being 
in these features like the Monitor class of vessels built six 
years later by Ericsson, but differing from them in having a 
turret square and immovable instead of circular and ro- 

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, twenty years 
after his proof at Sandy Hook that a ship could be protected 
by iron armor, Edwin Stevens presented to the government 
of the United States a plan for completing the Stevens 
Battery, bequeathed to him by his brother Robert, together 
with the Naugatuck, a small vessel, to demonstrate his 
schemes as practicable. The Naugatuck was accepted by 
the government, and was one of the first fleet which attacked 
the Merrimac. She was a twin-screw vessel, immersible by 
water ballast to three feet below her load-line, so as to be 
nearly invisible, with pumps which could lift her to a nor- 
mal plane in eight minutes. She could turn end for end, on 
her center, in seventy-five seconds. As Mr. Stevens' plans 
for the modification of his battery were wholly novel, his 
offer was declined. The country was then in desperate 
need of armored craft, and the Navy Department was pa- 
tiently hearing, day by day, designers of new types of 
armored ships. Yet it meant nothing to these naval officials 
that the Stevens family were eminent as engineers, and of 
the highest financial responsibility. Their plans included 
much novel mechanism, and bore many marks of forge and 
foundry, all profoundly distasteful to men whose tradi- 


tions were of sails and tackle. Since that day every iota 
of the Stevens plans has proved not merely feasible, but 
indispensable. It was a sad sight to her owner to see his 
battery through all the recurrent crises of the Civil War, 
untouched in her basin. In 1868, three years after Lee's 
surrender at Appomattox, Edwin Stevens died, bequeathing 
the vessel to the State of New Jersey, with a million dol- 
lars for her completion. This sum was expended in 1869 
and 1870. Much additional outlay was necessary, and, as 
this was withheld by Congress, she was taken apart in 1881 
and reduced to junk. 

While Robert L. Stevens was busy constructing this 
battery, every incident bearing on his work was eagerly 
wrought into his plans. One day a North River steamer, 
the Thomas Powell, through derangement of her rudder, 
ran into a crib dock, smashing its heavy timbers and dis- 
placing fifteen feet of its stone filling. The vessel then 
backed out of the wound she had inflicted, but little harmed 
by her onslaught. Argued Mr. Stevens, if a frail wooden 
hull can do all this damage with scarcely any hurt to her- 
self, an iron steamer with a steel prow could deliver with 
impunity a mortal blow to an ordinary ship. His convic- 
tion so impressed Congress that it authorized him, in 1843, 
to build a warship equipped with an immense iron ram, ax- 
like in shape, and so braced and supported as to be part 
and parcel of the hull behind it. 

Edwin Augustus Stevens was a man to whom wealth 
brought a keen sense of responsibility. Toward the close 
of his life he resolved that the name of his family should 
be borne by " an institution for the benefit of the youth 
residing from time to time in New Jersey." Accordingly, 
with leaders in education he had long and earnest confer- 
ences, that his foundation might be wisely laid and firmly 
built upon. His death took place in 1868, and his will pro- 
vided for the projected Stevens Institute of Technology at 


Hoboken, land valued at $100,000, a building fund of 
$150,000, and $500,000 for endowment, in all three-quarters 
of a million dollars. In June, 1911, the assets of the In- 
stitute stood at $1,550,000, including gifts from Dr. Henry 
Morton, its first president, of $145,000; and from Andrew 
Carnegie, chiefly for endowment, $340,000. It was largely 
through one of its first trustees, Samuel B. Dod, that a 
school of mechanical engineering was formed. On May 
27, 1911, Edwin Augustus Stevens, II. , son and namesake 
of the founder, conveyed a part of his father's estate, the 
Castle and its grounds, to the Institute, to serve as its 
social rallying center. The present Castle was built in 1853, 
on the site of the original residence of Colonel John Stevens. 
The plans of President Humphreys for the development of 
Stevens Institute center in the acquisition of twenty-two 
acres of the Stevens Castle estate. This would provide a 
site for an engineering college unsurpassed in America, 
while within two miles of the City Hall of New York. 
President Humphreys says : " Stevens Institute stands for 
thoroughness in engineering education and well-balanced 
coordination between theory and practice. Some emphasis 
is placed on the mechanical side of engineering, but not 
such an emphasis as to make it a narrow course in educa- 

Stevens Institute, including the class of 1912, has gradu- 
ated 1,686 students. Among these are many engineers of 
note, both at home and abroad. In the class of 1883 a P~ 
peared Frederick Winslow Taylor, of Philadelphia, and, had 
Stevens no other student of whom to boast, his name would 
amply justify its existence. Mr. Taylor, in pursuing 
methods begun in the laboratory and workshops at Ho- 
boken, has worked out scientific management from prac- 
tice to rule. In many cases his methods have multiplied 
fourfold the output of a factory or mill, and bid fair to 
bring to an end antagonisms of capital and labor by creating 

[From a portrait in the possession of Miss M. B. P. Garnett, Hoboken.] 


for them both a new and large profit as they work shoulder 
to shoulder. 

While Stevens Institute was taking form in the mind 
of its founder, his constant adviser was the late Abram S. 
Hewitt, of New York, the famous ironmaster. His 
services as a Member of Congress and as Mayor of New 
York have earned for him grateful remembrance in the 
Empire State. He was often wont to recall his friendship 
with the successive generations of the Stevens family, and 
never were his reminiscences so full and so interesting as 
when he addressed the alumni on February 18, 1897, the 
twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Stevens In- 
stitute : 

" I suppose that I am one of the very few persons living 
who can say that they have seen and known the entire 
Stevens family, from its founder, John Stevens, who was 
born in 1749, before the Revolution, as well as his children, 
grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who have gath- 
ered around the old ancestral home on the other side of the 
Hudson River. When I was about six years of age I was 
taken by my father to Hoboken to be introduced to John 
Stevens, because I had a few days before seen from the Jay 
Street Wharf a magnificent steamer, with four ponderous 
smokestacks, passingly rapidly up the Hudson River, and 
had asked whose steamer it was, and where it was going. 

" My father told me that there were two of these boats, 
the finest in the world, and that they had been built by the 
Stevens family of Hoboken. I said : ' Do you know the 
Stevens family ? ' To which he replied : ' Yes. I will take 
you to Hoboken and present you to the greatest engineer 
of his time.' 

" And so some time between 1828 and 1830, I was taken 
to Hoboken and introduced to John Stevens, who was then 
eighty-three years of age, but in possession of all his 
faculties, and manifesting the greatest possible interest in 
this visit from an old friend and a young boy. Familiarly 
he called my father ' John/ for both bore the same name, 
and my father said : ' This is my son. I want him to see 


and know you.' And then they began to talk of old times, 
and particularly of this remarkable story, which was so 
often repeated to me by my father, or else I should not 
remember it so well. 

" My father was the draftsman and pattern-maker who 
had come out from England, with a party of machinists, to 
erect the first stationary double-acting condensing engine 
which was put at work in America. It was built by Boulton 
& Watt at the Soho Works, near Birmingham in England, 
and was brought out and erected at Centre Square, in Phila- 
delphia, to supply that city with water before the Fairmount 
Works, on the Schuylkill River, were erected. Thus John 
Stevens had built for himself the first Watt engine ever 
constructed in America. His corps of workers, whose chief 
was an engineer named Smalman, included Rhode, an iron- 
founder, the predecessor and instructor of James P. Allaire, 
who founded the Allaire Works in New York. These men, 
with my father as draftsman and pattern-maker, erected a 
new Soho Works at Belleville, near Newark, New Jersey. 
There John Stevens built the first low-pressure engine ever 
constructed in America. 

" Of course, this interview with John Stevens made a 
profound impression upon my mind, and on my way home 
my father said : ' Yes, that engine was put in a boat in which 
I traversed the route from Belleville to New York and back 
again, John Stevens being the owner, builder, and captain of 
the boat, and Mr. Smalman, Mr. Rhode, and myself being 
the passengers ; and we came to New York in that boat nine 
years before Fulton put the Clermont on the Hudson.' 

" Portions of the engine thus constructed were for a 
time preserved in the Stevens Institute, and must be there 
still, unless transferred to the National Museum at Wash- 
ington. But the boat in which the engine was placed must 
not be confounded with the one whose model I see here 
upon the table, built later, in 1804, with a double screw, and 
which preceded Fulton's boat by four or five years. I only 
remember the Belleville boat had a stern wheel, and my 
father said that Mr. Stevens, during the trip, remarked that 
wheels should have been placed at the side, and not at the 

". . . Robert L. Stevens, as you all know, was the de- 
signer of what is known as the flange rail. He had it made 


in Wales at the works of Sir John Guest, and with such ex- 
pedition that within two years from the time of undertak- 
ing the practical scheme of building the Camden and Amboy 
Railroad, that road was constructed and carrying pas- 
sengers between New York and Philadelphia. Robert L. 
Stevens and his brother Edwin, who was the business man- 
ager of the enterprise, thus performed in two years a feat 
which at that time, if you will consider the development of 
the mechanical arts, the state of the finances of the world, 
and the unknown elements which entered into the problem, 
was a greater performance than if a man were now to 
build a road from New York to San Francisco in two 

" John C., Robert, and Edwin Stevens had tried and 
trusted assistants, but the superintendence of the work to 
the minutest part was carried out by themselves personally. 
Together they built railroads, ferries, steamboats, yachts, 
and ironclad batteries ; indeed, these three brothers worked 
as though they were one man. No one ever heard of any 
quarrel or dissension in the Stevens family. They were 
workmen themselves, and they were superior to their sub- 
ordinates only because they were better engineers and better 
men of business than any other folk who up to that time 
had undertaken the business of transportation in the United 

". . . These men were the pioneers and founders who 
have made this country what it is. ... No one who can- 
not go back as I can to the time when there were no rail- 
ways, no ocean steamers, no telegraphs, no telephones, no 
armored navies, when the great West was yet unsettled, 
when this great empire was a wilderness, cannot recall the 
primitive condition of things, and did not see it, can realize 
what the Stevens family has done for America. 

" I have said enough of the achievements of this re- 
markable family, but I have not said enough of the other 
side of their personality, the lovely, gentle, sweet, and 
human character which belonged to the father and the 
three brothers of whom I have spoken. I told you that I 
was a poor and diffident boy, yet when I was brought into 
contact with them I never was made to feel that there was 
any difference in social standing, in wealth, in years, or even 
ability. I was welcomed to Castle Point in my early youth 


just as I would be to-day by the honored mistress of that 
mansion. They did not believe that the acquisition of 
wealth was sufficient for the development of human nature. 
They knew that the emotional side of man's nature controls 
in the long run, and that the reason is always the servant 
of the imagination. Hence, when they ran stage-coaches, 
they had fine horses ; when they ran boats for profit to Al- 
bany, they adorned them with pictures and beautiful ob- 
jects. The sense for beauty was manifest in all that they 
did. Their leisure hours were regaled by the charms of art 
and music. I believe that no connoisseur who ever lived 
in New York was superior to Robert Stevens in knowledge 
of music, and no man ever lived who enjoyed it more. 

' The Stevens Institute was created by Mr. E. A. Stevens' 
will, which was signed on April 15, 1867, on the night be- 
fore he embarked on the Great Eastern for that trip from 
which he was never to return. It was my good fortune to 
accompany him. He was very anxious to understand the 
Great Eastern. . . . During the voyage I had many con- 
versations with Mr. Stevens on the subject of the Stevens 
Institute. Mr. Peter Cooper, my father-in-law, had 
founded the Cooper Union in New York, and it had been 
in operation for eight years at that time. I explained to 
Mr. Stevens that Mr. Cooper was a mechanic, and that his 
foundation was for mechanics; that, as the Stevens family 
were engineers, it was fitting in every way that the Stevens 
Institute should be devoted to the education of engineers. I 
explained to him that all the resources of the Cooper Union 
were giving the education which mechanics needed, and that 
what was wanted in this country was a higher institution 
which could start where the mechanic ended, and produce 
the engineers who were to become the leaders of modern 
enterprise and the captains of industry. 

" Mr. Stevens entered heartily into this view of the sub- 
ject, so that I have reason to know that, while the will 
provides for ' an institution of learning/ President Morton, 
with the approval of the trustees, carried into effect the 
views which Mr. Stevens entertained as to the objects of 
the institution and the place it should fill in the domain of 

" But I referred to the voyage which we took together 
for the purpose mainly of showing some of the traits of Mr. 


Stevens, which made him so interesting and lovable to his 
friends. The Great Eastern, for want of funds, had but a 
scanty supply of bituminous coal, which was supplemented 
by a stock of anthracite, which not a stoker on board had 
ever used or even seen before. The Captain, Sir James 
Anderson, came to us and asked what he should do. So 
Mr. Stevens, seventy-two though he was, and I, crawled 
down through many devious passages until we reached the 
boiler-room, and there found a very discouraged lot of peo- 
ple who were trying to burn anthracite as they would burn 
bituminous coal. Of course, their fire went out, and you 
will be astonished to learn that he and I, mostly he, spent 
nearly two days in the boiler-room, teaching those stokers 
how to burn anthracite coal, which we succeeded in doing 
so that we duly arrived at Brest. This is a simple illustra- 
tion of the character of Mr. Stevens. 

" The Stevens family in the last generation were creators 
as well as founders. You gentlemen who have profited by 
the beneficence, and foresight, of Edwin A. Stevens, are 
reaping the fruits of the seed which his family sowed 
abundantly in their day and generation. They were men 
not only of great sagacity and untiring energy, but of a 
high order of courage. When Robert L. Stevens found 
that Fulton had preceded him by a few weeks in placing the 
Clermont on the Hudson, thus securing the monopoly of 
the navigation of that river, he boldly took the Phoenix 
by sea from New York to Philadelphia, thus gaining the 
imperishable glory of being the first man to traverse the 
ocean with a boat propelled by steam. The honor is 
heightened by the fact that, while Fulton had imported his 
engine from England, Stevens used one which he had con- 
structed in America, and which I believe to have been in 
part identical with the one I have referred to, as used in 
propelling the boat which ran from Belleville to New York 
in 1799." * 

*The "Abram S. Hewitt Memorial" was erected in 1912 beside 
Cooper Union. It will eventually comprise six stories accommodat- 
ing the technical and scientific departments of the Union. 


RICH harvests, we are often told, await explorers who 
will but pass beyond the horizons now limiting our studies 
of atom and molecule, body and mind. All this is true : 
every word said on behalf of original research is just and 
worth heeding. It is also true that much golden knowl- 
edge, won long ago, is less honored by use than it deserves 
to be. We inherit, and neglect our inheritance, while we 
laboriously seek possessions of much less worth. It is well 
that discovery should steadily advance ; it would be well also 
to bring plow and seed to vast areas that have for many 
years lain fallow. This was what Robert Fulton thought 
more than a century ago. He is commonly supposed to 
have invented the steamboat. He did nothing of the kind. 
The steamboat was launched and plied long before he trod 
its deck. Its supreme value, ignored by heedless eyes, he 
distinctly saw. With enterprise and perseverance he put 
the steamboat at work in earnest: soon his example was 
followed on both sides of the Atlantic by scores of acute 
men of business. And Fulton had shrewd common sense 
as well as a keen prophetic gaze. His boats on the Hud- 
son, from their first trip, earned a good dividend, so punc- 
tual was their carriage of passengers and freight. 

Why was it left to Fulton, and so recently as 1807, to 
accomplish a feat so simple? Because civilized nations had 
not fully awakened to what the steam engine stood ready 
to do for them. Watt, in trebling its efficiency, had ush- 
ered in the mechanical age. Before his day, a Newcomen 
engine, here and there, turned a winch or pumped a mine. 
But the usual prime-mover was a water-wheel, a windmill, 



^* -^ 

[From the "Portrait of Himself" owned by the late Col. Henrv T. 
Chapman, of Brooklyn, exhibited at the Museum of the Brooklyn Institute 
of Arts and Sciences.] 


or an inclined plane gliding under the patient tread of 
horses. Watt's engine, with its new economy, created new 
fields for itself: it was soon applied to spinning-jennies and 
looms, as well as to hoisting and pumping. Could it be 
taken aboard ship as an aid to sails? This question oc- 
curred independently to many engineers at the same time, 
and why not? On every sea, boats and ships were often 
becalmed for days together; as frequently they faced ad- 
verse gales and currents. It needed no more ingenuity to 
yoke a steam engine to a paddle-wheel, or to a screw 
propeller, than to link it to a pair of millstones or to the 
derrick of a shipyard. The steamboat was, accordingly, 
invented, and in several places far apart, a task which 
proved much less difficult than to secure its adoption. Who 
was the man who accomplished this feat? 

Robert Fulton was born in Little Britain, Lancaster 
County, Pennsylvania, on November 14, 1765. His father, 
of the same name, of Scottish-Irish blood, had immigrated 
from Kilkenny about thirty years before. The farmhouse 
in which Fulton was born is still standing: it remains, in 
part, as it met his gaze as an infant. When he was a year 
old, his parents removed to the town of Lancaster, where 
they had formerly lived. In 1768, when Robert was only 
three years of age, his father died, leaving a widow and 
five children, with but a small estate for their maintenance. 
Under these circumstances, Robert could receive but scant 
education. Like many another boy of original powers, 
he did not excel at his printed lessons. When but ten 
years old he told his schoolmaster that his " head was 
so full of his own ideas that there was no room for the 
storage of dusty books." Even at that early age his natural 
gifts began to appear. He hammered out pencils from 
stray bits of sheet-lead that came in his way, and these he 
employed to draw with an ease and accuracy that steadily 
increased. He could soon sketch a friend's likeness, a neigh- 


boring landscape, or a new machine. Benjamin West, the 
artist, lived in the adjoining county of Chester. He had 
been a warm friend of Fulton's father, whose home was 
adorned by family portraits from the brush of West. These 
and other of his canvasses, at home and in neighboring 
houses, young Robert ardently admired. He had enough 
artistic judgment to feel that West was a master: he 
earnestly longed that he himself might some day be a painter, 

There was a streak of adventure in this boy. Reigate, 
whose biography of Fulton appeared in 1856, tells us : 

"On July i, 1778, the following notice was published in 
Lancaster : 

" ' The excessive heat of the weather, the present scarcity 
of candles, and other considerations, induce the Council to 
recommend to the inhabitants to forbear illuminating the 
city on Saturday evening next, July 4th. 
" ' By order, 
" ' TIMOTHY MATLACK, Secretary.' 

" Robert had candles prepared and went to John Fisher, 
brushmaker, living near the jail, who kept powder and shot 
for sale. Fisher was astonished at Robert's desire to part 
with the candles, which were then scarce articles : and he 
asked why he wished to part with them? Robert replied 
that ' our rulers have requested the citizens to forbear 
illuminating their windows and streets ; as good citizens we 
should respect their request; and I prefer illuminating the 
heavens with skyrockets.' Having procured the powder, he 
left Fisher's store, and entered a small variety store kept 
by Theophilus Cossart, where he asked the price of the 
largest pasteboard. Having bought several sheets, he said 
that he meant to make rockets with them. ' Tut, tut ! ', said 
Cossart, ' that's an impossibility.' ' No, sir/ said Robert, 
' there is nothing impossible.' ' ; 

Young Fulton had not only artistic faculty, which made 
him an admirer of West, he had the constructiveness of a 
born mechanic. The best gunsmiths in the State were Isch 


& Messersmith, \vhose premises were near his home. Rob- 
ert had free access to their workshop, and there, without 
formal engagement or apprenticeship, he learned the art of 
a gunsmith. While still a boy, he made capital stocks, locks, 
barrels, and other parts of pistols and guns. Here his skill 
with the pencil stood him in good stead ; he drew new pat- 
terns skilfully and well ; their outlines were as clear 
in his imagination as were the finished arms to his eye. 
Yet more: he computed the best proportions for a fire- 
arm, and his figures proved true when tested with powder 
and ball. 

But Robert was not always at work : sometimes he took a 
holiday. When he was about fourteen he went with a 
chum, Christopher Gumpf, on a fishing excursion, taking 
his turn at poling the boat. Robert found the exercise more 
severe than he liked. Soon thereafter he built a boat driven 
by paddle-wheels; it demanded less muscular exertion than 
poling, so the boys used it for several seasons as they fished 
on the Conestoga Creek, near Rockford. This service of 
paddle-wheels clung to the young sportsman's memory, to be 
fruitfully revived, as we shall duly see. But at that time 
there was more in the air of Pennsylvania than an interest 
in the mechanics of navigation. While peace prevailed, 
there was a threat of war, and a threat to be soon fulfilled. 
Fulton was eleven years old when the Declaration of In- 
dependence was signed in Philadelphia. As a boy and a 
youth he saw all that led to the War of the Revolution ; and 
later he beheld the founding of the Union, with the nom- 
ination of George Washington as President. Naturally he 
imbibed the convictions of his kith and kin, and joined in 
their whole-souled hatred of the Tories. This feeling was 
intensified by the quartering in the neighborhood of a troop 
of Hessians, sent out by King George III. Robert made 
fun of these mercenaries in more than one spirited carica- 
ture. All this atmosphere of conflict, together with his 


learning the trade of a gunsmith, told deeply upon his mind 
and heart, as we shall presently note. 

But as Fulton grew from youth to manhood, art drew 
him more strongly than arms. So well did he draw and 
paint, so much pleasure did he feel in wielding pencil and 
brush, that, when seventeen, he went to Philadelphia, there 
to earn his bread at the easel. He did that and more. On 
his twenty-first birthday he came home with money enough 
to buy his mother a small farm in Washington County. 
While in Philadelphia, then the capital of the country, his 
talents and address, his good nature and good will, gained 
him attached friends. He was presented one day to Ben- 
jamin Franklin, then in his seventy-sixth year, who was 
about to embark for France, there to represent his country 
with distinction. It was during his stay in Philadelphia 
that Fulton acquired the tact and courtesy which marked 
him ever afterward, and so notably smoothed his difficulties 
as an inventor and a pioneer. 

At home in Lancaster, it was plain that his health was 
impaired. His lungs showed weakness ; he had worked too 
long and too hard in an ill-ventilated studio. He resolved 
to go abroad, where he could study art and enjoy a holiday 
at the same time. His friend, Benjamin West, had risen 
to fame and fortune in London ; from him he might reason- 
ably look for aid and counsel. After a refreshing sojourn 
at the Warm Sulphur Springs of Virginia, he sailed for 
England late in 1786. Mr. West received him most hos- 
pitably, and this kindness Fulton endeavored to requite. 
West's pictures were then to be had at prices comparatively 
low. Fulton sought to secure a series of them for Phila- 
delphia, but he failed to collect the fund required, mod- 
erate though it was. To-day the Academy of Fine Arts 
in that city has West's " Death on a Pale Horse," " Paul 
and Barnabas," and " Christ Rejected," three characteristic 


Fulton, while traveling as an artist in Devonshire, be- 
came acquainted with the Duke of Bridgewater and Earl 
Stanhope. Both noblemen were warmly interested in en- 
gineering as well as in fine art ; there was much to win their 
regard in the young American, who was as much at home 
at the lathe as at the easel. The vast estate of the Duke 
of Bridgewater held minerals of great value, if they could 
only be brought to market. Manchester nearby, already an 
important center for manufactures, needed coal such as 
abounded in the lands of the Duke, who at length engaged 
Brindley, the engineer, to build him canals on a compre- 
hensive scale. Fulton discussed with the Duke every de- 
tail of these projected waterways, with the effect that, in 
his own brain, art became eclipsed by engineering, and per- 
manently. Earl Stanhope was of a wholly different type 
from the Duke of Bridgewater; he was a man of paper 
projects rather than a practical inventor. He was fully 
alive to the benefits which canals would confer on England ; 
indeed, it was his pamphlet on this subject that first directed 
Fulton's mind to canal-building. Lord Stanhope one day 
told Fulton that he meant to equip a boat with a steam 
engine, using a propeller modeled on the web foot of a 
waterfowl, opening as thrust backward in the water, and 
closing when driven forward. Fulton told the Earl that 
such a propeller was not feasible. It would meet so much 
resistance as to be unendurably slow. 

In 1794, Fulton, freed from the toil of his brush, was 
prolific in new devices. He invented and patented double 
inclined planes to carry a ship overland from one canal 
or stream to another. Planes of this kind were duly 
adopted on the Morris and Essex Canal in New Jersey. 
Captain James B. Eads' scheme of a trans-isthmian rail- 
road, to unite the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, was de- 
veloped from these designs. Fulton took a broad, states- 
manlike view of transportation as a national unifier. Said 


he : "I contemplate a time when canals shall pass through 
every vale, winding around each hill, and bind the whole 
country together in bonds of social intercourse." His fore- 
cast of national unification is fulfilled, but chiefly by rail- 
roads, which have reduced canals to a subordinate place. 
Let us pursue Fulton's interest in these waterways until we 
reach 1807, when he returned to America, and pleaded with 
the National Government for a comprehensive canal policy. 
In 1810 he wrote the Legislature of New York on the same 
subject. His advocacy in mind, he was afterward ap- 
pointed a commissioner to investigate the feasibility of con- 
necting the Great Lakes with the Hudson River. This 
project fired his imagination; a year before his death he 
urged it with force and eloquence. His persuasions finally 
blossomed in the building of the Erie Canal, an enterprise 
which gave a golden impulse to the fortunes of New York 

To return to 1794, when Fulton was living in Birming- 
ham, not far from Boulton & Watt's manufactory of 
steam engines. During this year, in quick succession, he 
devised a marble-sawing machine, a machine to spin flax, 
and a rope-making apparatus. He also designed a mechan- 
ical dredger, or power-shovel, for canals. This was long 
used in England; it foreran the excavator, since familiar in 
surface mining and railroad construction on both sides of 
the Atlantic. In 1795 he invented an iron aqueduct, whose 
parts could be cast in open sand, and erected with simple 
staging. This aqueduct could be rendered water-tight 
much more easily than stonework. A structure on this plan 
was built over the Dee, at Pont-y-Cysyllte, twenty miles 
from Chester ; its spans, each of 52 feet, were supported on 
pillars, the highest standing 126 feet from the ground. He 
applied similar principles to bridges, several of which were 
built for the Surrey Iron Railway. Some of these bridges 
were provided with endless ropes for haulage, using water- 


power, so as to dispense with horses and their towpaths. 
Another of Fulton's plans, greatly extended since its alli- 
ance with steam, was to discharge loads from cars or 
wagons into slides leading to wharves. These inventions 
were described and illustrated in papers which were lost at 
sea in 1804, aboard a ship bound for New York. No such 
mishap befell his treatise on " Canal Navigation," published 
in 1795, presenting original designs for locks and other ac- 
cessories of canals. This work displays Fulton's excellence 
as a draughtsman : every line from his pencil is clear and 
neat. As a modeler he was equally skilful. These gifts 
were partnered with uncommon practical ability. His com- 
putations of cost were exact and cautious, giving all di- 
mensions, the load for each horse or wagon, the speed of 
projected machinery, with careful estimates of revenue and 
net profits. 

In 1797, France and England were temporarily at peace. 
A new chapter in Fulton's life opened when, in that year, 
he went to Paris to patent his inventions, and offer them 
to the French people. He took credentials to Joel Barlow, 
an eminent American publicist, who received him most cor- 
dially. In Mr. Barlow's house Fulton resided for seven 
years, a cherished friend. During this period Fulton il- 
lustrated his host's ambitious poem, " The Columbiad," 
which was dedicated to Fulton, who, in 1807, published it 
at a cost of $5,000. Another task in art was his huge pano- 
rama, produced in 1800, " The Burning of Moscow." This 
canvas, delineating an early conflagration in the Russian 
capital, was a singular forecast of the tragedy in 1812, 
which cost Napoleon the flower of his army, and drove him 
from Russia.* But it was not to illustrate poetry or to 

*In the memorable retreat from Moscow, Barlow, then minister 
to France from the United States, fell a victim. He was to lay the 
draft of a treaty before Napoleon, and proceeded to Russia with that 
purpose. Barlow, traveling in a carriage, through extreme cold 


paint panoramas that Fulton came to Paris. David Bush- 
nell, of Connecticut, during the War of the Revolution, had 
applied clockwork to magazines of gunpowder, sunk with 
intent to destroy the invader's warships. This apparatus, 
from crudity of design and faulty workmanship, had failed, 
but Fulton saw in it the germ of a weapon so deadly that it 
might prove fatal to war itself. 

Late in 1797, with aid from Barlow, Fulton began experi- 
ments with cylinders of gunpowder exploded under water. 
These he called torpedoes, from the cramp-fish of that 
name, which paralyzes or kills its victims by an electric 
shock. Fulton's first torpedoes failed: their failure taught 
him how to improve his plans. His amended designs were 
offered to the Dutch Government through Mr. Schimmel- 
penninck, ambassador from Holland to France. A com- 
missioner was appointed by the Batavian Republic to ex- 
amine Fulton's scheme; he gave the inventor no encour- 
agement. At this juncture a Dutchman, Mr. Vanstaphast, 
furnished Fulton with means for the construction of an 
improved machine. This he offered to the Batavian Gov- 
ernment, eliciting no response. By 1800, partly with profits 
from his panorama, Fulton built his first diving-boat, the 
Nautilus. It embodied original features which survive in 
all the submersible craft of to-day, and which stamp Fulton 
as an inventor of the first rank. She was launched on the 
Seine, near Rouen, on July 30, 1800, and submerged for 
three hours, the river at that point being about twenty-five 
feet deep. Next day Fulton took his boat down the Seine 
to Havre, where he carried out further experiments. Soon 
afterward he built at Paris a second and improved Nautilus. 

and privation, was attacked by pneumonia on his way to Wilna, 
where he was to meet the Emperor. At Zarnaweic, a village near 
Cracow, Barlow could proceed no further; and there, on December 
24, 1812, he died. His biography, by Charles Burr Todd, appeared 
in 1886. 


She had iron ribs and was sheathed with copper ; her shape 
was that of a long narrow egg. On her deck in a groove 
lay a small mast, which could be erected from a hinge. 
In the interior, about six feet in diameter, were the handles 
of the oars, arranged screw fashion. A reservoir for water, 
controlled by a lever, enabled the vessel to descend at will. 
She rose in obedience to a force-pump. This Nautilus was 
finished in June, 1801, and was tested on the Seine above 
the Hotel des Invalides. Fulton and a sailor shut them- 
selves in, with a single candle, and remained under water 
twenty minutes, emerging after a voyage of several hun- 
dred yards. He again descended and returned to his first 
point of departure, amid the applause of thousands of 

No picture of the first Nautilus is known to exist. It is 
said to have had a superstructure which gave it the look 
of an ordinary boat when on the water. At the top for- 
ward rose a dome-like conning tower with glass scuttles; 
just abaft was a mast built of light spars framed together 
so as to stow snugly along the top of the boat when sub- 
merged. The keel was a heavy metal bar which formed a 
counterpoise and steadied the boat. The anchors and hoist- 
ing apparatus were in a compartment right forward, while 
amidships was the handworked mechanism that revolved 
the propeller. Whether this propeller was a screw, or a 
wheel fitted with elliptical buckets, is uncertain. The tor- 
pedo appliance was like that of Bushnell's " turtle," the 
wood screw coming through the dome of the conning 
tower. The torpedo itself was fitted with a gun-lock fired 
by a lanyard instead of Bushnell's clockwork. 

Through his friend, the secretary of the port of Brest, Ful- 
ton received from Napoleon an order to direct his torpedo- 
boat against the British fleet, then blockading the French 
coast. If he destroyed a warship of ten guns he was to 
receive 60,000 francs ; with rewards rising to 400,000 francs 


if he blew up a vessel of more than thirty guns. Three 
leading members of the National Institute, Monge, Laplace, 
and Volney, were appointed by Napoleon to examine and 
report upon the performance of this Nautilus. In a note to 
them Fulton said: " On the third of Thermidor (the elev- 
enth month of the French Republican calendar) I com- 
menced my experiments by plunging to a depth of 5 feet, 
then 10 feet, then 15 feet, and so on to 25 feet. I went 
no further, as the machine could bear no greater pressure of 
superincumbent water. My boat had 212 cubic feet 
capacity, containing enough oxygen to support four men 
and two small candles for three hours." 

This Nautilus plunged and rose while perpendicular; it 
turned to the right or left at pleasure. Its compass was 
unaffected by submersion. In later experiments air was 
compressed in a brass globe to a pressure of two hundred 
atmospheres, affording a supply for a lengthened voyage. 
The bombs to be fired from this boat were of copper, and 
varied from a capacity of twenty pounds of gunpowder to 
ten times as much. They were provided with a trigger, so 
as to explode when they struck their target. This mechan- 
ism was tested by the destruction of a sloop during August, 
1801, in the harbor of Brest, a bomb containing twenty 
pounds of powder being used. For a whole summer Fulton 
pursued one British vessel after another with this Nautilus. 
Once he came near a seventy- four gun frigate, but she 
managed to escape. Fulton, therefore, received no re- 
ward from France. This failure chilled the ardor of his 
friends in the French army and navy, but it had no effect 
on his own sanguine spirit. 

He now proved himself a man of decided political incon- 
stancy. Earl Stanhope had, all along, kept himself in- 
formed regarding Fulton's boats and torpedoes, as suc- 
cessively improved. In the House of Lords he warned the 
British nation that Fulton's weapons boded ruin to the 


British fleet. Negotiations were accordingly opened with 
Fulton, and in September, 1803, he was invited to exhibit 
his inventions to officials of the British Government. He 
reached London on May 19, 1804, and soon laid his plans 
before Mr. Pitt, the prime minister, who remarked that these 
weapons might annihilate every fleet in the world. It was 
proposed to pay Fulton a salary of two hundred pounds, 
about one thousand dollars, per month, and one-half the 
value of all the vessels that he destroyed within fourteen 
years, the period of his patent. An expedition, including 
a torpedo boat of Fulton's, set sail against the French 
fleet in the harbor of Boulogne, but without success. Ful- 
ton's torpedoes were in perfect order, but they were handled 
by gunners without experience in their control. Shortly 
afterward, on October 15, 1805, Fulton blew up with tor- 
pedoes a heavy brig at Walmer Roads, near Mr. Pitt's 
castle. Seventy pounds of powder sufficed, and Fulton 
recorded : " Exactly in fifteen minutes from the time of 
drawing the peg and throwing the carcass (torpedo) into 
the water, the explosion took place. It lifted the brig al- 
most bodily, and broke her in two. The ends sank immedi- 
ately, and nothing was seen but floating fragments." On 
January 23, 1806, Mr. Pitt died, at the early age of forty- 
seven, and in the ensuing change of ministry, Fulton's 
friends were dispersed. The succeeding government, un- 
der Lord Granville, asked the inventor if they might sup- 
press his weapons if they wished, in case of purchase. His 
refusal concluded: 

" At all events, whatever may be your reward, I will 
never consent to let these inventions lie dormant, should my 
country at any time have need of them. Were you to 
grant me an annuity of twenty thousand pounds a year, I 
would sacrifice all to the safety and independence of my 
country. But I hope that England and America will un- 
derstand their mutual interest too well to war with each 


other, and I have no desire to introduce my engines into 
practice for the benefit of any other nation." 

Fulton, taking a far look ahead, believed that his pro- 
motion of canals would do much to insure peace, while his 
plunging boats and torpedoes, after a single decisive battle, 
would abolish war. In his " Thoughts on Free Trade " he 
declared : 

" After this (laying his views before the Directory of 
France) I was convinced that society must pass through 
ages of progressive improvement, before the freedom of the 
seas could be established by an agreement of nations that it 
was for the good of the whole. I saw that the growing 
wealth and commerce of the United States, and their in- 
creasing population, would compel them to look for a pro- 
tection by sea, and, perhaps, drive them to the necessity 
of resorting to European measures by establishing a navy. 
Seeing this, I turned my whole attention to finding out 
means of destroying such engines of oppression by some 
method which would put it out of the power of any nation 
to maintain such a system, and would compel every gov- 
ernment to adopt the simple principles of education, in- 
dustry, and a free circulation of its produce." 

Fulton far excelled his predecessors in the construction 
and control of torpedoes; and his devices were the pre- 
cursors of the Lay and Howell torpedoes, the Whitehead 
and other models. He lived, however, before it was pos- 
sible to bring submarine warfare beyond a moderate degree 
of effectiveness. In his day electricity was unmastered, and 
its igniting, propelling, and directive services were un- 
imagined. Steels, and other strong and tough alloys, ex- 
isted only in qualities which, to-day, are deemed weak and 
inferior. And the explosion engine, uniting high energy 
with a lightness which to-day gives it the freedom of the 
skies, had not been born. Fulton, of course, could not 
foresee these and other modern resources of invention, or 


the seesaw which they create betwixt the arts of attacks and 
of defense. First, an armor is rolled of steel so stout and 
tough as to arrest the heaviest shot. At once projectiles 
are improved in contour, are increased in weight, are built 
of stronger alloys, and they pierce the armor easily. The 
armor is now reinforced to a doubled resistance, only within 
a few months to face shot of new penetrating power. Tor- 
pedoes are devised which threaten to send every warship 
of an enemy to the ocean floor. Very soon a torpedo de- 
stroyer is built, which, for a little while, lets designers of 
warships catch their breath; and so proceeds an unending 
conflict, as successive strides are taken in the production of 
alloys, in the chemistry of explosives, in the speed and 
dirigibility of submarine or aerial craft. 

A word from Fulton himself should be heard at this 
point. In his " Torpedo War," published in New York, in 
1810, he said: 

" Although cannon, firearms, and the whole detail of am- 
munition, now appear extremely simple, yet we here see 
the very slow advances to their present state of perfection; 
and they are still improving. Hence I conclude that it is 
now impossible to foresee to what degree torpedoes may be 
improved and rendered useful. When Schwartz invented 
powder, it may be presumed that his mind did not embrace 
all its consequences, or p.erceive that his discovery would 
supersede the use of catapults, armor, bows and arrows, and 
totally change the whole art of war. He certainly could 
have no conception of such a combination of art as we now 
see in ships of the line ; those movable fortifications, armed 
with 32-pounders, and furnished with wings, to spread op- 
pression over every part of the ocean, and carry destruc- 
tion to every harbor of the earth. In consequence of the 
invention of gunpowder, ships of war have been contrived, 
and increased to their present enormous size and number: 
then may not science, in her progress, point out a means 
by which the application of the violent explosive force of 
gunpowder shall destroy ships of war, and give to the seas 


the liberty which shall secure perpetual peace between na- 
tions that are separated by the ocean? My conviction is 
that the means are here developed, and require only to be 
organized and practised, to produce that liberty so dear to 
every rational and reflecting man; and there is a grandeur 
in persevering to success in so immense an enterprise so 
well calculated to excite the most vigorous exertions of the 
highest order of intellect, that I hope to interest the patri- 
otic feelings of every friend to America, to justice, and to 
humanity, in so good a cause." 

While Fulton had been devising and improving his 
plunging boat and torpedoes, he had kept in view the 
building of a steamboat. Peaceful commerce had as large a 
place in his mind as the enginery of destruction. As a boy, 
steam navigation had been brought to his notice by a 
neighbor, William Henry. This inventor, who deserves 
more praise than has fallen to his lot, in 1763 built and suc- 
cessfully worked a steamboat. Soon after its launching, it 
was wrecked by accident. Henry seems to have thought 
the time unripe for his enterprise, so he went no further 
than to construct a model which embodied improvements 
on his first design. Henry owned several of Benjamin 
West's pictures, and these attracted Fulton, as a visitor, in 
his boyhood and youth. It is altogether probable that 
Henry often discussed with Fulton the topic uppermost in 
his own mind, that of steamboats. Henry died on Decem- 
ber 15, 1786, just about the time that Fulton embarked for 

William Henry had, among the frequent callers at his 
house, John Fitch, a skilful mechanic from Connecticut, 
who in 1785 presented to the American Philosophical So- 
ciety of Philadelphia a model of a machine for propelling a 
boat by steam. He tried in vain to secure aid from the 
Legislatures of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. He 
was more fortunate in New Jersey, whose Legislature 
granted him the exclusive right to build and use any kind of 


boat propelled by steam in the waters of the State for four- 
teen years from March 18, 1786. He formed a joint-stock 
company, and proceeded with experiments. On July 27, 
1786* he placed a small boat or skiff on the Delaware River 
propelled by oars moved by a steam engine. In 1790 he 
built another and improved steamer, which ran at seven 
miles an hour. In June of that year it began to ply as a 
passenger boat between Philadelphia and Trenton. It ran 
more than two thousand miles, and never met with an ac- 
cident. In 1796 or 1797 Fitch launched a small steamer, pro- 
pelled by a screw, on the Collect, a pond which occu- 
pied the present site of the Tombs in Centre Street, New 

James Rumsey, also in 1786, drove a boat at four miles 
an hour, employing a steam engine to force water abaft in 
an impelling stream. His feat was witnessed, with marked 
approval, by General Washington, on the Potomac at .Shep- 
herdstown, Virginia. But the most memorable success at- 
tained by any early inventor of steamboats in America, 
stands, as we have already seen, to the credit of John 
Stevens, of Hoboken, New Jersey. One day, driving along 
the bank of the Delaware River, he saw the little steamboat 
of John Fitch, on its way to Bordentown. He resolved to 
outdo what Fitch had done. After a long course of ex- 
periment, he launched in 1804 and 1805 two steamboats, in- 
corporating original features of great value. His boilers 
were of sectional design, his engines were at once compact 
and strong, he employed steam at a pressure of fifty pounds 
to the square inch, and he adopted screws as his propellers. 
One of his steamboats, which attained a speed of eight 
miles an hour, had two of these propellers, prophetic, in- 
deed, of a modern ocean greyhound. 

But all this advance in engineering, all this enterprise in 
commercial adoption, seems to have remained unknown to 
Fulton. Ever since 1786, he had resided abroad, and even 


the striking experiments with steamboats in Europe appear 
to have long escaped his attention. In Paris he had often 
discussed steamboat projects with Chancellor Livingston, 
then Minister of the United States, who, years before in 
America, had built steamboats of disappointing slowness, 
although he was aided by Mark Isambard Brunei, one of 
the most eminent engineers of his day. At that time the 
United States had not established its patent system, and 
each State could reward an inventor, or an introducer of 
inventions, with a monopoly duly defined as to period and 
territory. Livingston was offered by the Legislature of 
New York a monopoly of the steam navigation of the Hud- 
son River, on his accomplishing a successful voyage upon 
its waters. Fulton, while residing at Plombieres, after pro- 
longed study, drew plans for his first steamboat, with a 
view to navigation in America. It occurred to him that the 
best form of propellers might be chaplets, small, square 
floats, fastened to an endless belt, and kept in motion by a 
steam engine. Tests with models proved that paddle-wheels, 
such as he had turned by hand as a boy on the Conestoga, 
were more efficient. He had once used a primitive kind of 
screw propeller, and for some unknown reason abandoned it. 
On February 16, 1796, he wrote to Dr. Edmund Cartwright: 
" I have just proved an experiment on moving boats, with 
a fly of four parts, very similar to that of a smoke-jack. I 
find it applies the power to great advantage, and it is ex- 
tremely simple." * 

Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, who now became Ful- 
ton's equal partner, was one of the leading publicists of his 
time, so that he brought to their joint interests wide in- 
fluence and high prestige. He had been a member of the 
Continental Congress, had taken part in drafting the 
Declaration of Independence, was one of the framers of the 
Constitution of the State of New York, and, as its first 

* Proceedings Institute of Civil Engineers, London, 1844. 



Chancellor, had administered to George Washington his 
oath of office at his inauguration in New York. Chancellor 
Livingston, while Minister to France, negotiated the pur- 
chase of Louisiana from Napoleon. With pecuniary aid 
from Livingston, Fulton completed his steamboat, and 
launched it on the Seine early in the spring of 1803. Its 
length of hull was 66 feet, its beam 8 feet, its draught 3 
feet. Unfortunately, its construction was flimsy ; no sooner 
did the machinery come on board, than the hull broke in 


In March, 1802, ran through the long reach of the Forth and 
Clyde Canal, against a quick breeze, tugging two vessels, each of 
more than 70 tons' burden, completing 19^ miles in six hours. 
When she went by herself, she ran six miles an hour. 

Her cylinder was 22 inches in diameter with a stroke of four feet. 

two and sank. The machinery was little harmed by its 
drenching; the hull had to be rebuilt. In that reconstruc- 
tion a lesson was taught which American builders of steam 
craft have never forgotten; their hulls, while light, are 
always abundantly strong. In July, Fulton floated his ves- 
sel once more; on August 9 a trial trip took place, at a 
speed of four and a half miles an hour. This experiment, 
although really epoch-making, was regarded with indiffer- 
ence by the people of Paris. The steamer remained for 
months on the Seine, near the palace, without calling forth 


any remark. One feature of its equipment was noteworthy, 
a water-tube boiler, patented by Barlow in France, and 
affording so extended a surface to the fire that steam 
was raised with a new rapidity. 

In May, 1804, when Fulton was in England, on behalf of 
his plunging boat and torpedoes, news came to him of the 
steamboats of William Symington. The first of these boats 
had demonstrated its success in 1788; in the following year 
a better designed steamer had attained a still quicker pace. 
A third steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas, had, in 1802, 
reached a speed of six miles an hour on the Forth and 
Clyde Canal. This crowning feat aroused interest through- 
out Great Britain, and Symington was asked by the Duke 
of Bridgewater to design steam vessels to ply on his canal. 
Fulton saw at once that Symington had surpassed his own 
achievements, so he called on the Scottish inventor in quest 
of information. Symington's account of the visit appears in 
J. Scott Russel's " Steam and Steam Navigation": 

" I caused the engine fire to be lighted up, and in a short 
time thereafter put the steamboat in motion, and carried him 
from Lock No. 16 (of the Forth and Clyde Canal), where 
the boat then lay, four miles west of the canal, and re- 
turned to the place of starting, in eighty minutes, to the 
great astonishment of Mr. Fulton and several gentlemen 
who at the outset chanced to come on board. 

" During the trip Mr. Fulton asked if I had any objec- 
tions to his taking notes respecting the steamboat, to which 
question I said none; as I considered the more publicity 
that was given to any discovery intended for the general 
good, so much the better ; and having the privilege secured 
by letters-patent, I was not afraid of his making any en- 
croachment upon my right in the British Dominions, 
though in the United States, I was well aware, I had no 
power of control. In consequence, he pulled out a memo- 
randum-book, and, after putting several pointed questions 
respecting the general construction and effect of the ma- 
chine, which I answered in a most explicit manner, he jot- 


ted down particularly everything then described, with his 
own remarks upon the boat, while moving with him on 
board, along the canal ; but he seems to have been altogether 
forgetful of this, as, notwithstanding his fair promises, I 
never heard anything more of him till reading in a news- 
paper an account of his death." 

Fulton must have been chagrined to discover that, 
through sheer ignorance of what Symington had accom- 
plished years before, his own plans for a steamboat had been 
misdirected and were, indeed, wholly forestalled. Even in 
those days of slow mails, of belated publication, it seems in- 
explicable that Fulton, until his return to England, did not 
know of experiments so decisive as those of Symington. 
Fulton, we must remember, lived in the chief city of con- 
tinental Europe, where he was constantly meeting many of 
the best informed men of his time. His later services, on 
behalf of steam navigation, did much toward making impos- 
sible a repetition of so costly an ignorance. As Fulton's 
negotiations with the British Government for submarine 
warfare gradually drifted into failure, he saw that his 
future career lay in launching steamboats on American 
waters. With characteristic promptness he proceeded to 
his drawing-board, to complete a design at the earliest 
feasible moment. For motive power he ordered a steam 
engine from Boulton & Watt, of Birmingham, its price be- 
ing 548 ($2,670). Soon afterward, in October, 1806, he 
sailed from Falmouth, reaching New York two months 
later. His drawings were forthwith placed in the hands of 
Charles Brown, a shipbuilder at Corlears Hook, on the 
East River side of New York. While the hull was still 
unfinished, Fulton and Livingston ran out of funds. To 
John Stevens, of Hoboken, a brother-in-law of Livingston's, 
who had operated steamboats with success, they offered a 
third interest in their venture if he would come to their 
aid. He said no, as he disapproved Fulton's design. On 



another occasion Fulton was so hard pressed for cash that 
he spent a whole evening trying to persuade a friend to 
advance him $1,000. All in vain. Next day he resumed 
his plea; his friend proffered $100 as a loan, provided that 
the remaining $900 could be borrowed without delay. 
These loans were at length effected, but all the lenders stip- 
ulated that their names be withheld, dreading the ridicule 
which would attach to so foolhardy an experiment as steam- 
boating. Fulton narrated to a friend the continuing dis- 
favor of the New York public : " When I was building my 
first steamboat, the project was viewed by the public either 


with indifference, or with contempt, as a visionary scheme. 
My friends, indeed, were civil, but they were shy. They 
listened with patience to my explanations, but with a set- 
tled cast of incredulity on their countenances. As I had 
occasion daily to pass to and from the shipyard while my 
boat was in progress, I have often loitered unknown near 
the idle groups of strangers, gathering in little circles, and 
heard various inquiries as to the object of this new vehicle. 
The language was uniformly that of scorn, sneer, or ridi- 
cule. The loud laugh often rose at my expense; the dry 
jest; the wise calculation of losses and expenditures; the 
dull but endless repetition of ' Fulton's Folly.' Never did 


a single encouraging remark, a bright hope, a warm wish, 
cross my path. Silence itself was but politeness, veiling its 
doubts, or hiding its reproaches." 

Chancellor Livingston's estate on the Hudson was called 
Clermont, and its name was bestowed on Fulton's steam- 
boat. The Clermont, duly launched and equipped, started 
from New York on August 17, 1807, for her first trip to Al- 
bany. Fulton thus narrated the journey: 

" To the Editor of the American Citizen. 

" SIR I arrived this afternoon at four o'clock, in the 
steamboat from Albany. As the success of my experiment 
gives me great hopes that such boats may be of great im- 
portance to my country, to prevent erroneous opinions, and 
give some satisfaction to the friends of useful improve- 
ments, you will have the goodness to publish the following 
statement of facts. 

" I left New York on Monday, at one o'clock, and arrived 
at Clermont, the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at one 
o'clock on Tuesday time, twenty-four hours distance no 
miles. On Wednesday I departed from the Chancellor's, at 
nine in the morning, and arrived at Albany at five in the 
afternoon distance forty miles, time eight hours. The 
sum is 150 miles in 32 hours, equal to nearly five miles an 
hour. On Thursday at nine o'clock in the morning I left 
Albany and arrived at the Chancellor's at six in the even- 
ing. I started thence at seven, and arrived in New York 
at four in the afternoon, time thirty hours, equal to five 
miles an hour. Throughout my whole way, going and 
returning, the wind was ahead : no advantage could be de- 
rived from my sails: the whole has, therefore, been per- 
formed by the power of the steam engine." 

The Clermont was 150 feet long, 13 feet beam, and 7 
feet in depth of hold. Her tonnage was about 100. The 
engine cylinder was of 24-inch diameter, and 4 feet stroke. 
The boiler was 20 feet long, 7 feet high, and 8 feet wide. 
After her first season, encouraged by financial success, the 
Clermont was strengthened throughout and widened to 18 




feet, while her engine was improved from plans furnished 
by Fulton. Two more boats, the Raritan and the Car of 
Neptune, were added to the Clermont, establishing the first 
regular line of steamboats in the world, some years in ad- 
vance of similar lines in Europe. The Legislature of New 
York extended its monopoly to Fulton and Livingston, 
adding five years for each new boat of their line, up to a 
limit of thirty years. 

A ferry service from New York to Jersey City followed, 
after considerable delay. In March, 1811, Elisha Boudinot 
and other citizens of Newark subscribed' $50,000 for a 
steam ferry between Jersey City and New York, and Fulton 
was requested to design the required boats, two in number. 
They were constructed by Charles Brown, the builder of the 
Clermont, and on July 2, 1812, one of them, the Jersey, 
crossed the North River, beginning her regular trips fifteen 
days later. Fulton thus described her : " She is built of two 
boats, each of 10 feet beam, and 5 feet deep in the hold: 
which boats are distant from each other 10 feet, confined 
by strong transverse beam knees and diagonal braces, form- 
ing a deck 30 feet wide and 80 feet long. The propelling 
water-wheel is placed between the boats to prevent it from 
injury from ice and shock on entering and approaching the 
dock. The whole of the machinery being placed between 
the two boats, leaves 10 feet on the deck of one boat for 
carriages, horses, and cattle ; the other, having neat benches, 
covered with an awning, is for passengers, and there is also 
a passage and stairway to a neat cabin, which is 50 feet 
long and 5 feet clear from the floor to the beams, fur- 
nished with benches and provided with a stove in winter. 
Although the two boats and the space between them give 
30 feet beam, yet they present sharp bows to the water, and 
have only the resistance in the water of one boat twenty 
feet beam. Both ends being alike, and each having a rud- 
der, she never puts about." 


In 1813, the York, a sister-vessel to the Jersey, was 
launched and placed in service. These boats ran every half 
hour during the day, accomplishing their trip of a mile 
and a half in fifteen minutes. This was the first permanent 
steam ferry ever established. Brooklyn, during ,1813, was 
joined to New York by a similar service. 

Fulton was well aware of the golden harvest that steam- 
boats would reap in America, especially in the Western 
States, then fast coming under the plow. To his old and 
faithful ally, Joel Barlow, residing near Washington, he 
wrote : 

" My steamboat voyage to Albany and back turned out 
rather more favorably than I had calculated. The distance 
from New York to Albany is 150 miles. I ran it up in 
thirty-two hours, and down in thirty. I had a light breeze 
against me the whole way, both going and coming, and the 
voyage has been performed wholly by the power of the 
steam engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners, beat- 
ing to the windward, and parted with them as if they had 
been at anchor. The power of propelling boats by steam 
is now fully proved. The morning I left New York, there 
were not, perhaps, thirty persons in the city who believed 
that the boat would ever move one mile an hour, or be of the 
least utility, and, while we, were putting off from the wharf, 
which was crowded with spectators, I heard a number of 
sarcastic remarks. This is the way ignorant men compli- 
ment what they call philosophers and projectors. Having 
employed much time, money, and zeal in accomplishing this 
work, it gives me, as it will you, great pleasure to see it 
fully answer my expectations. It will give a cheap and 
quick conveyance to the merchandise on the Mississippi, 
Missouri, and other great rivers, which are now laying open 
their treasures to the enterprise of our countrymen; and 
although the prospect of personal emolument has been 
some inducement to me, yet I feel infinitely more pleasure 
in reflecting on the immense advantage that my country will 
derive from the invention." 

During the winter of 1807-08, the Clermont, as virtually 
rebuilt, was named the North River; she made regular trips 


on the Hudson for several years. Fulton wrote to Charles 
Wilson Peale, the portrait painter, regarding the enlarged 

" CLERMONT, N. Y., June n, 1808. 

" My steamboat is now in complete operation and works 
much to my satisfaction, making the voyages from New 
York to Albany, 150 miles, on an average of 35 hours. She 
has three excellent cabins, or, rather, rooms, contained 54 
berths, with kitchen, larder, pantry, bar, and steward's room. 
Passengers have been encouraging. Last Saturday she 
started from New York with seventy, which is doing very 
well for these times, when trade has not its usual activity." 

Some of the regulations posted on this steamboat quaintly 
tell of manners and customs a century ago in America: 

" Way-passengers, who are not out for more than half the 
night, are not entitled to lie down in a berth. 

" As the comfort of all passengers must be considered, 
cleanliness, neatness, and order are necessary. It is, there- 
fore, not permitted that any persons shall smoke in the 
ladies' cabin, or in the great cabin, under a penalty, first of 
$1.50, and 50 cents for each half hour they offend against 
this rule; the money to be spent in wine for the company. 

" It is not permitted for any person to lie down in a berth 
with their boots or shoes on, under penalty of $1.50 and 
50 cents for every half hour they may offend against this 

" In the ladies' cabin, in the great cabin, cards and all 
games are to cease at ten o'clock in the evening, that those 
persons who wish to sleep might not be disturbed." 

Before the death of Fulton, in 1815, he had built sev- 
enteen boats, which included the first steam war frigate, 
the first torpedo-boat, and the first steam ferry-boats, trie 
latter equipped with rounded ends for approach at either 
shore, and floating docks to receive them. At the time of 
Fulton's death, the steamboat The Emperor of Russia was 
under construction for the Russian Government. The en- 


terprise was postponed, and was afterward taken up by 
other contractors. 

Fulton's steamboat project had not wholly allured him 
from his long cherished plans of submarine warfare. 
Shortly after his return to America he offered his tor- 
pedoes to the Federal Government at Washington, main- 
taining that " in the hands of a righteous nation, they 
would insure universal peace." Fulton had a warm friend 
in President Jefferson, whose interest in applied science was 
second only to his devotion to the duties of government. 
Largely at the instance of the President, Fulton was given 
an opportunity to prove the value of his torpedoes. Gov- 
ernor's Island, a mile from the Battery at the foot of Man- 
hattan Island, was granted him for his tests. He invited 
the magistracy of New York and a party of citizens to 
witness his torpedoes at work. While he was explaining 
their mechanism, his auditors crowded round him with a 
discommoding effect. He pointed to a copper case, stand- 
ing under the gateway close by, to which was attached a 
clockwork lock. This he set in motion with the remark: 
" Gentlemen, this is a charged torpedo, with which, pre- 
cisely in its present state, I mean to blow up a vessel. It 
contains 170 pounds of powder, and if I would let the 
clockwork run fifteen minutes, I doubt not that this fortifica- 
tion would be blown to atoms." The circle around Fulton 
was enlarged in a twinkling, and before five of his fifteen 
minutes had elapsed, there were not more than two spec- 
tators within sight of the speaker. Much more striking 
than any feat of that afternoon was his destruction, by a 
torpedo, on July 20, 1807, of a large hulk brig in the harbor 
of New York. He was ever a severe critic of his own 
plans, and this success only led him to imagine improve- 
ments in construction and control, which he did not live 
to complete. 

He had derived his idea of torpedoes from David Bush- 


nell : another weapon of attack was original with himself. 
This was ordnance used under water instead of, as usual, 
through the air. Ericsson, in his Destroyer, developed Ful- 
ton's scheme much further than was possible with the scant 
resources at his predecessor's command. To ex-President 
Jefferson, Fulton sent a long letter describing his experi- 
ments in submarine gunnery, with penciled sketches, con- 

" Instead of having the cannon and portholes of a war- 
ship, as usual, above the surface of the water, I place my 
cannon so low in the vessel that their portholes will be be- 
low the surface of the water, from six inches to ten feet 
or more. Thus the cannon, being fired with its muzzle 
under water, the bullets will pass through the water in- 
stead of the air, and through the sides of the enemy, from 
one to ten feet below the waterline, which, letting in the 
water in quantity, will sink the vessel attacked." 

All this may be found, with much else, in his book, " Tor- 
pedo War." In the course of a letter to the Hon. Paul 
Hamilton, Secretary of the United States Navy, Fulton 
said on February i, 1811 : 

" It is proved and admitted, first, that the waterproof 
locks will ignite gunpowder under water ; secondly, it is 
proved that seventy pounds of powder, exploded under the 
bottom of a vessel of two hundred tons, will blow her up; 
hence it is admitted, that if a sufficient quantity of powder, 
which, I believe, need not be more than two hundred pounds, 
be ignited beneath the bottom of a first-rate man-of-war, it 
would instantly destroy her; thirdly, it is proved and ad- 
mitted that a gun can be fired under water, and that a 
cable of any size can be cut by that means, at any required 
depth. With these immediately important principles ap- 
proved and admitted, the question naturally occurs, whether 
there be, within the genius of inventive faculties of man, the 
means of placing a torpedo under a ship in defiance of her 
powers of resistance. He who says there is not, and that 


consequently torpedoes can never be made useful, must, of 
course, believe that he has penetrated to the limits of man's 
inventive powers, and that he has contemplated all the com- 
binations and arrangements which present or future in- 
genuity can devise to place a torpedo under a ship. . . . 

" Of the anchored torpedoes, I have had the pleasure to 
show you the improvements I have made on these since 
the meeting of the committee in New York last fall, to give 
them stability under water, or to take them up or put them 
down when necessary. There is a very simple mode to 
convince any unbeliever of the advantage which this kind 
of engine will present, and the respect for our harbors 
which it will create in the mind of an enemy : let me put one 
under water, and they who do not believe in its effect may 
put their confidence to the proof by sailing over it. 

" A compound engine of this kind will cost from $800 
to $1,000: 320 of them could be made for the first cost of 
one ship of 54 guns ; of these, say, 100 should protect New 
York; 100, Boston; 100, Charleston; 20 to be placed in the 
Delaware between its forts or batteries. Thus four ports 
could be guarded so as to render it impossible for an 
enemy's ships to enter any of them, unless first they had 
strength to take possession of the land and forts, and then 
time deliberately to search for the torpedoes. Yet one ship 
of 54 guns cannot guard one port against one 74-gun ship, 
although the first cost of that vessel in anchored torpedoes 
would guard at least three ports against ten ships of 74 guns. 
In commission a 54-gun ship costs to maintain $100,000 a 
year ; this, at five per cent., represents two million dollars 
in capital. ... I do not mean to object to ships to protect 
our coast; but when considered for harbor defense, or for 
aiding forts or batteries to defend harbors, the money can 
be better expended in torpedoes." 

Commodore Rodgers was an unsparing critic of Fulton's 
torpedoes and submarine boats. He said, referring to a 
figure of one of these boats : 

" I leave the reader to make his own conclusions, and to 
judge whether such torpid, unwieldy, six-feet-sided, six- 
inch-decked, fifteen-sixteenth-sunk-water dungeons, are cal- 


culated to supersede the necessity of a navy, particularly 
when the men who manage them are confined to the limits 
of their holds, which will be under water, and in as perfect 
darkness as if shut up in the Black Hole of Calcutta." 

No opposition, however severe, could for a moment check 
Fulton in his endeavor to bring submarine warfare to suc- 
cess. Golden, his biographer, thus describes a submarine 
boat which was projected during the closing days of Ful- 
ton's life : 

" He contrived a vessel which was to have a capacity, by 
means of an air-chamber like that on board the Nautilus, 
to be kept at a greater or less depth in the water, but so 
that her deck should not be submerged. That chamber 
communicated with the water, and was shaped like a diving- 
bell ; but it could at pleasure, by an air-pump, be exhausted 
of air, and then would fill with water ; or, any required quan- 
tity of air could be forced into it, so as to expel the -water 
from it entirely. The sides of the vessel were to be of 
ordinary thickness, but her deck was to be stout and plated 
with iron, so as to render it ball-proof, which would not re- 
quire so much strength as might at first be imagined, be- 
cause, as no shot could strike it from a vessel but at a very 
great angle, the ball would ricochet on a slight resistance 
from a hard substance. She was of a size to shelter a hun- 
dred men under her deck, and was to be moved by a wheel 
placed in another air-chamber near the stern, so that when 
the vessel was to be propelled only a part of the under- 
paddles should be in the water; at least, the upper half, 
or more, moving in the air. The wheel was to be turned by 
a crank attached to a shaft, that should penetrate the stern 
to the air-chamber through a stuffing-box, and run along 
the middle of the boat until it approached her bows. 
Through this shaft rungs were to be passed, of which the 
crew were to take hold as they were seated upon each side 
of it on benches. By merely pushing the shaft forward 
and backward the water-wheel would be turned, and the 
boat propelled. By means of the air-chamber, she was to 
be kept, when not in hostile action, upon the surface, as com- 
mon boats are ; but when in reach of an enemy, she was to 


sink, so that nothing but her deck would be exposed to 
his view or to his fire. Her motion in this situation would 
be perfectly silent, and therefore he called this contrivance a 
mute. His design was that she should approach an enemy, 
which he supposed she might do in fogs or in the night, 
without being heard or discovered, and do execution by 
means of his torpedoes or submarine guns. He presented a 
model of this vessel to the Government, by which it was ap- 
proved. Under authority of the Executive he commenced 
building one in the port of New York. Before the hull was 
finished, his country had to lament his death, and the 
mechanics he had employed were incapable of proceeding 
without him." 

Reigate, a later biographer than Golden, says that Ful- 
ton derived from nature a hint for his submersible, being 
thoroughly acquainted with the pneumatic machinery by 
which fishes rise to the surface or lie at the bottom of the 
sea. This he imitated in the expansions and contractions 
of a large reservoir of air. 

Fulton was an engineer in his every fiber. In 1802 he ex- 
amined the patent of M. Des Blancs for a steamboat ; in his 
notebook he jotted down a criticism : 

" This imperfection of plan makes me believe that M. Des 
Blancs has not found the proportion which his paddles 
should bear to the bow of the boat, or the velocity which 
they should run in proportion to the velocity which the boat 
is intended to go. Consequently, if he has not known the 
proportions and the velocities he has not mounted or de- 
posited a description by which an artist could construct 
a boat to go any given number of miles an hour, nor, in 
fact, has he shown the means of constructing a boat which 
can be of use. He has left the proportions and velocities to 
be discovered. He has not given any rule to make a boat 
of any given dimensions, go any given distance in a given 
time, and he has not as yet mounted a boat to navigate by 
steam in such manner as to be of use to society; for this 
invention to be rendered useful does not consist in putting 
oars, paddles, wheels, or resisting chains in motion by a 


steam engine but it consists in showing in a clear and 
distinct manner that it is desired to drive a boat precisely 
any given number of miles an hour what must be the size 
of the cylinder and the velocity of the piston? What must 
be the size and velocity of the resisting chains? All these 
things being governed by the laws of Nature, the real In- 
vention is to find them. Till the artist knows the necessary 
proportions to this and all other sized boats, he must work 
in the dark and to great uncertainty, and can not be said 
to have made any clear and distinct discovery or useful in- 

Fulton's mind was crystal clear in seeing that a plan 
should proceed on trustworthy weighing and measuring, on 
the precise adaptation of means to ends. In minor mat- 
ters, too, his perceptions were unusually keen, and he 
backed them with a courage that made him a terror to 
humbugs. In 1813 a German immigrant, Wilhelm Red- 
heffer, exhibited in New York a machine which he boasted 
as a " perpetual motion." Fulton went to see this marvel ; 
he no sooner heard the throb of the apparatus than he ex- 
claimed, " Why, this is a crank motion." Had the rotation 
been due to a real " perpetual motion," this inequality of 
throb would not have been heard. Fulton called the show- 
man an impostor ; knocking away some thin laths which 
joined the frame of the machine to the wall, he exposed a 
strip of moving catgut which turned the " perpetual mo- 
tion." Following up the catgut, he reached a back-loft. 
There sat the explanation of the mystery in the person of a 
poor old wretch gnawing a crust the while he turned a 
crank. The proprietor of the show disappeared, as a mob 
of defrauded patrons smashed his machinery in pieces. 

In 1812, when the United States declared war with 
Great Britain, the mind of Fulton at once reverted to his 
long-pondered plans for naval offense and defense. In 
March, 1814, Congress authorized him to supervise the 
building of the first steam vessel of war ever constructed. 


This vessel, the Demologos, or Fulton the First, was 
launched, without her equipment, on October 29, 1814, 
from the yard of Adam & Noah Brown on the East River, 
New York. She had two hulls, 66 feet in length, with a 
channel between, 15 feet in width, for a paddle-wheel. Her 
parapet was 4 feet 10 inches wide; she had portholes for 
thirty 32-pounder guns; two bowsprits and jibs; two masts; 
and four rudders, one at each end of both hulls. On Febru- 
ary 17, 1815, six days before Fulton's death, peace with 
Great Britain was declared. Three months afterward the 
engine of Fulton the First was reared, and on the fourth 
of July following, the vessel made a passage to the ocean 
and back, a distance of 53 miles, in 8 hours and 20 minutes. 
For many years Fulton's heirs sought payment from Con- 
gress for his services as engineer of this ship, for fees as a 
patentee, and for outlays. In 1846, thirty-one years after 
his death, this debt, $76,300, was paid. 

It was in the very prime of his activity that the career 
of this great man came to a close. In January, 1815, he 
testified at Trenton, in a suit which sought to repeal laws 
which interfered with the plying of ferryboats between the 
New Jersey shore and New York City. The weather was 
stormy, and Fulton, whose lungs had for years been weak, 
took a severe cold. He returned home, and gradually sank 
until February 23, when he breathed his last. He left a 
wife, nee Harriet Livingston, a son, and three daughters. 
His burial took place next day, from his residence, 2 Mar- 
ketfield Street, now Battery Place, in the rear of i Broad- 
way, to Trinity Church. His remains were interred in the 
adjoining churchyard, in a vault belonging to the Liv- 
ingston family. Above that vault a handsome memorial, 
with a medallion portrait, was, in 1901, reared by the 
American Society of Mechanical Engineers. 

Fulton's biographer, Cadwallader B. Colden, who knew 
him well, thus describes him: 


" Fulton was about six feet high. His person was slen- 
der, but well proportioned and well formed. Nature had 
made him a gentleman and bestowed upon him ease and 
gracefulness. He had too much good sense for the least 
affectation. A modest confidence in his own worth and tal- 
ents gave him an unembarrassed deportment in all com- 
panies. His features were strong and of manly beauty. He 
had large dark eyes, and a projecting brow expressive of in- 
telligence and thought. His temper was, mild, his disposi- 
tion lively. He was fond of society, which he always en- 
livened by cheerful, cordial manners, and instructed or 
pleased by his sensible conversation. He expressed him- 
self with energy, fluency, and correctness, and, as he owed 
more to his own experience and reflections than to books, his 
sentiments were often interesting from their originality." 

Fulton won his laurels chiefly by his introduction of the 
steamboat invented, as we have seen, by engineers in 
Scotland and America long before his experiments. His 
alliance with Livingston, who held a monopoly from the 
State of New York, gave him an advantage as a pioneer 
of which he availed himself ably and boldly. As an in- 
ventor and improver of weapons of war, Fulton rose to 
the front rank, and here he borrowed only to restore a 
hundredfold. The torpedo, devised by David Bushnell, in 
Fulton's designs became an instrument wholly new. He 
improved plunging boats in every detail of their construc- 
tion and equipment, so that they bear the marks of his hands 
to this day. Of submarine gunnery, with possibilities yet to 
be determined, he was the undisputed creator. Whether 
promoting arts of peace or of war, he took views as wide 
as the world, always rejoicing in the boons to mankind 
which were enfolded in his plans for steamboats and canals, 
his submarine boats and torpedoes. As he sketched new 
engines of battle, he believed that he was making war so 
terrible that soon it should wholly cease. He was a 
many-sided man, and, as he took up tasks widely diverse, 


each of his talents lent aid to every other. He was a cap- 
ital draftsman and painter, a mechanic and an engineer, 
an inventor and a researcher. With all this variety of ac- 
complishment he was a shrewd man of business and a warm 
friend. Now that fields of human action are divided and 
subdivided, minds of his inclusive horizon no longer ap- 
pear, and, indeed, may no longer be possible. 


ELI WHITNEY, famous as the inventor of the cotton gin, 
was born on December 8, 1765, in Westboro, a pleasant lit- 
tle village of Massachusetts, sixteen miles east of Worcester. 
The house of his nativity was destroyed long ago ; its site, 
on Johnson Road, bears a bronze tablet as a memorial. 
Whitney's father, who bore the name he gave his son, 
was of English blood, and so was his wife. In good Yankee 
fashion he was both a farmer and a mechanic. When he 
had nothing to do on his land, he made chairs for his 
neighbors, and wheels for their wagons and carts. Beside 
a complete kit of tools for cabinet-making, he had a lathe 
to turn his chair posts and rails. All this came under the 
eye of his son as a child, and under his fingers, as he grew 
big enough to handle a jackplane or a gimlet. Eli soon 
preferred tasks in the shop to tasks on the farm; his 
handiness with hammers, chisels, and saws proved him 
right. At school he stood high in arithmetic, and in nothing 
else; it was at his workbench that he excelled. When he 
was twelve he made a fiddle, having learned what woods 
and strings were to be chosen; his dexterity was rewarded 
with an instrument of fairly good tone. He now began to 
repair fiddles for Westboro musicians, and to execute other 
work requiring a nice touch. His father had a watch that 
had cost him a round sum. Eli thought it the most won- 
derful piece of mechanism he had ever seen. One Sunday, 
while the family were absent at church, Eli, who had feigned 
illness and stayed at home, took the watch to pieces and re- 
assembled its parts. No mishap befell the exploit, but Eli's 
father was an austere man, so that years elapsed before 
his son divulged this daring feat. ___ 



Eli's mother died when he was a child: when he was 
thirteen his father married a second time. His step- 
mother, as part of her dowry, brought home a fine set of 
table-knives for occasions of state. Eli examined them 
with the remark: " I could make knives just as good with 
the right tools." Not long afterward one of these knives 
was accidentally broken, when Eli kept his word to the 
letter. Further additions to his tool chest enabled him to 
earn a decent profit at making nails, then in active demand, 
owing to the Revolutionary War. He was quick, too, at 
other tasks : he sharpened knives and axes, replaced old 
knife-blades with new, and gave every job so good a 
finish that, boy though he was, no mechanic in town 
surpassed him. His business grew large enough to de- 
mand a helper. His quest for this helper took Eli forty 
miles from home through a succession of workshops, where 
he saw many a tool and device to be copied on his return 
to Westboro. When peace with England was declared, 
nailmaking was no longer worth while, but fashion smiled 
on our young mechanic, and gave him as good a market as 
had war. Just then ladies fastened their bonnets with long 
metal pins, and in their manufacture Whitney built up a 
lucrative business. Not only ladies, but men, now became 
his customers: at odd times his lathe was a-whirl to turn 
out walking-canes. Plainly enough here stood a born 
mechanic, and a young fellow of energy and enterprise 

As Whitney passed into youth he felt within him a pulse 
of power which called for the best training: at nineteen he 
resolved to enter Yale College. This project his step- 
mother warmly opposed, and Eli was twenty-three before 
his father said yes, decisively. In the meantime he taught 
school at intervals, finding, as many another teacher has 
found, that teaching is a capital mode of learning. At 
Yale he paid his expenses partly by a loan from his father, 


whom he repaid within three years of graduation. At col- 
lege he wrote essays like those of his classmates, ambitious 
of topic, and rather flowery in diction. In discussions he 
acquitted himself with credit. Meanwhile his mechanical 
aptitudes were not gathering rust. One day a tutor found 
a piece of experimental apparatus out of order. Said he: 
" It must go abroad for repair to the shop it came from." 
" I think I can mend it," promised Whitney. Within a 
week he mended it so thoroughly that it worked as well as 
ever. Not long afterward he espied a carpenter busy in a 
house near the college, plying tools of a new kind, which 
Whitney asked to borrow. " No," said the carpenter, " stu- 
dents always spoil good tools. The owner of this house is 
your landlord, get him to go bail for you, and then I'll lend 
you these tools." Bail was given, and Whitney began work. 
At once the carpenter exclaimed : " There was a good 
mechanic spoiled when you came to college." ^ 

In 1792, in his twenty-seventh year, Whitney was gradu- 
ated. In those days of short and simple courses, he was 
about seven years older than most of his classmates. There 
was gain in this lateness of his education, as knowledge, un- 
staled by premature familiarity, dawned upon the mind of 
a man. To-day students of the Whitney stamp take up 
engineering as a profession, and soon make their mark. 
At the close of the eighteenth century there was no pro- 
fession of engineering to attract and develop Whitney's 
unmistakable talent, so he chose teaching as his field, for 
a time at least, remembering his success in earlier years 
with his pupils. He secured an engagement with a school 
in South Carolina, and took passage on a ship from New 
York to Savannah. On board was the widow of General 
Nathanael Greene with her family, on their way to Mulberry 
Park, their home, twelve miles from Savannah. Mrs. 
Greene saw at once that the young New Englander was 
a man of brains and character. Furthermore, he was an 


alumnus of Yale, the college of Phineas Miller, the man- 
ager of her husband's estate, and who afterward became 
her husband. When Whitney reached Savannah he found 
that the salary offered him was not a hundred guineas, as 
he had expected, but only fifty, which he declined. Mrs. 
Greene then hospitably invited him to her mansion, where 
he would be at liberty to study law, the course upon which 
he had now determined. Whitney availed himself of this 
kind offer, took up his abode at Mulberry Park, and began 
to read law. In her ungrudging hospitality Mrs. Greene 
soon discovered that she was entertaining not an angel, but 
an inventor of the first rank. 

One evening, as his hostess sat embroidering, she com- 
plained that her tambour frame tore the delicate silk of her 
pattern. Whitney saw at a glance how he could make a 
better frame, and this he accomplished next day to her 
delight. Early next year Mrs. Greene received a visit from 
three comrades of General Greene, who resided on planta- 
tions near Augusta, and who often talked about sowing and 
reaping, with their vital bearing on profit or loss. They 
agreed that much of the up-country land belonging to them- 
selves and their neighbors yielded good cotton, but that cot- 
ton had little or no value owing to the high cost of dividing 
lint from seed. At that time, to part a pound of lint from 
its three pounds of seed, was ten hours' work for a quick 
hand. Usually this task was taken up when regular work 
was over for the day. Then the slaves, men, women, and 
children, sat around a taskmaster, who shook the dozing and 
nudged the slow. One evening, as her visitors deplored 
the lack of a machine to supplant this tedious and costly 
process, Mrs. Greene said : " Gentlemen, apply to my friend, 
Mr. Whitney; he can make anything," showing them her 
tambour frame with an array of her children's toys which 
he had made or mended. Whitney, thus appealed to, said 
that his home had lain so far north that he had never 


seen cotton as plucked from the bolls, with its seed firmly 
attached to its lint, so that the task of separation had never 
occurred to him. 

So deeply did the conversation impress Whitney, that next 
day he went to Savannah, and obtained a small packet of 
seed-cotton. As he pulled the seeds one by one from their 
lint, he felt that it was high time that fingers of iron did 
this simple work, instead of fingers of flesh and blood. In 
the basement of the Greene mansion he forthwith set up a 
workshop with a bench and a few common tools. These as- 
sembled, he began to consider his problem. The roller gin, 
of immemorial form, was then used on Sea Island cotton 
with its long staple. Such a gin consisted mainly of two 
rollers, grooved lengthwise, and kept about one-sixteenth of 
an inch apart ; their rotation drew the lint inward to a box, 
while the seeds, too large to pass between the rollers, were 
torn off and fell into another box. Occasionally a small 
seed was caught and crushed by the rollers, and became 
mixed with the lint, greatly to its damage. Upland cotton, 
such as Whitney had to treat, was shorter than the Sea 
Island variety, and its seeds were smaller and more firmly 
attached, so that the roller gin, either as it stood or as it 
might be modified, was out of the question. He thought 
that a good plan would be to thrust the lint through slits a 
little narrower than the space between the cylinders of a 
roller gin, so that the seeds would be broken off and re- 
main behind. 

First, then, how was he to thrust the lint through these 
narrow slits? Diverse plans suggested themselves. Teeth 
cut in circular iron plates, " ratchet wheels," as he called 
them, would have answered, but he was not able to try these 
wheels until later, when he found iron plates thin and 
strong enough for the purpose. Iron in another form was 
at hand, and this he adopted for his first experiments. One 
of Mrs. Greene's daughters had a pet bird, and a coil of 



iron wire to make its cage had just been unpacked. This 
prompted the notion that wire needles or prongs would 
serve to thrust lint through narrow openings. But the 
wire was too thick. Nothing, then, but to draw it to a 
suitable thinness by appliances which the untiring mechanic 
made there and then. Day by day he tried various lengths 


of wire, and disposed them in various angles and curves. 
He discovered that the prongs worked best when pro- 
truding about an inch from their cylinder. He found, 
also, that the wire should have a gentle curve opposed to 
the direction in which the cylinder rotated. Week by week 
this armed cylinder was tested, and for a few minutes the 
lint would be duly thrust between the slits in a breastwork, 
and the seeds forced off with gratifying thoroughness. But 


soon the wire teeth became clogged with lint, so that work 
had to stop. Whitney was puzzled by this difficulty, when, 
one morning, Mrs. Greene picked up the hearthbrush and 
asked : " Why don't you use this ? " The very thing ! Be- 
hind his breastwork Whitney set up a second wooden 
cylinder, armed with bristles to form a rotary brush ; when 
this ran four times as fast as the wired cylinder, it swept 
the lint from its prongs into a box, and trouble was at an 

Toward the close of the winter, Whitney completed a 
model so easily turned by hand as to ask no more exer- 
tion than a grindstone. Mrs. Greene now invited her 
friends from near and far to view its hundreds of tiny 
fingers, each doing as much work as a human hand. The 
planters in her assembled company were enthusiastic in 
praise of the inventor's ingenuity, and they clearly saw what 
his gin meant for the South. They urged him to patent 
at once his amazing invention, which was certain 4o bring 
him wealth and honor. Whitney declared that he was 
loth to bid farewell to law, the profession for which his 
studies had prepared him, and embark on the troublous 
sea which surrounds every inventor. At last he yielded 
to the entreaties of his friend, Phineas Miller, who proposed 
that Whitney and himself should become equal partners 
in patenting the cotton gin and setting* it at work through- 
out the South. Miller agreed to provide the necessary 
capital, and, as the event proved, unfortunately he did 
not foresee how much would be needed. On May 27, 1793, 
the two friends entered into partnership as Miller & Whit- 
ney, a firm to be long remembered in the industrial history 
of America. 

Whitney now posted to Connecticut to execute the model 
required by the Patent Office, and arrange for the manu- 
facture of his machines. His model was soon beautifully 
constructed by his own hands, and on June 20 he petitioned 


for a patent to Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State. 
Philadelphia, then the capital of the Union, was that year 
devastated by yellow fever. This delayed the issue of a 
patent until March 14, 1794. In the meantime Mr. Jeffer- 
son examined Whitney's model with a thorough compre- 
hension of its extraordinary merit and promise. He ad- 
dressed a cordial inquiry to the inventor, asking how the 
gin was built and used, and requesting that a machine be 
sent to him. This good news Whitney repeated to his 
classmate and lifelong friend, Josiah Stebbins, adding, with 
characteristic restraint : " I hope to make something of the 
gin yet." 

Miller, whose services included supplying cash for prelim- 
inary outlays, soon came to the end of his resources. It 
then became necessary to borrow $2,000; for this loan, be- 
sides legal interest, a premium of five per cent, was exacted. 
Miller's credit slowly sank from bad to worse; a few 
years later he had to pay five per cent, a month, then six, 
and at last seven per cent. This lowness of exchequer, 
which constantly harassed Miller & Whitney, meant that 
their cotton gin, while mechanically a success, was an utter 
failure in yielding them a revenue. In the very year of its 
invention it had prompted the planting of a crop which 
yielded about five million pounds of cotton, every pound of 
which passed through Whitney's gin. And every year 
thereafter saw more and more cotton planted, until soon 
this became the main product of the South. Why, then, 
was Whitney denied any share whatever in the vast wealth 
he had created ? 

At the outset Miller & Whitney fell into a cardinal error : 
they sought to own all the gins in Georgia themselves, and 
take as their toll one pound in three of their product. 
This levy was exorbitant, and it aroused the planters to 
anger and resistance. Their provocation was increased 
when, in March, 1795, the gin factory established by Whit- 



ney at New Haven was destroyed by fire, cutting off for 
many months the supply of new machines. These machines 
were simple enough to be easily imitated by local black- 
smiths and carpenters, and serviceable copies were set 
going by the hundred throughout the South. Miller & 
Whitney soon found that their tolls were too high, or cer- 
tainly higher than planters would pay, so they agreed 
to accept a royalty for the use of their gins, gradually lower- 
ing the fee until it stood at $200. Even this moderate 
toll was withheld, partly in downright dishonesty, and 
partly through an omission in Whitney's patent, which 
opened the door to a vexatious infringement. 

On May 12, 1796, Hodgen Holmes, of Georgia, patented 
a gin which, instead of wire prongs or needles, employed 
circular saws of the kind now universal. The teeth of these 
saws were kept slightly dull, so as to tear the lint less 
than did needles, and the Holmes machine, therefore, was 
a formidable competitor. Miller & Whitney sued Holmes 
for infringement, and secured a judgment against him. 
He acknowledged the justice of this decision by paying 
Miller & Whitney $200 as royalty on one of their gins. 
It had been clearly proved in court that Holmes' machine 
was essentially the Whitney gin, using a saw of the kind 
which Whitney had openly employed in early experiments, 
and discarded in favor of his wires. In the first rough 
draft of his claims as a patentee, Whitney had included saws 
as alternative devices with these wires. It was the chief 
misfortune of his life that in his patent only wires were 
mentioned, without inclusion of saws either in his claims 
or his drawings.* But the contest with Holmes was by no 

*In 1804, Miller & Whitney sued Arthur Fort and John Powell for 
infringement in the United States District Court in Savannah, win- 
ning an injunction. As part of their evidence they adduced a cer- 
tified copy of Whitney's patent, which copy remains on file to this 
day, with its drawings, in the Court House. In 1836, the Patent 
Office in Washington was destroyed by fire, and Whitney's original 


means at an end when judgment was rendered against him. 
His further course was narrated by Whitney in a letter to 
Josiah Stebbins: 

". . . Several patents have been issued for machines on 
my principle. One of the patentees [Holmes] claims as his 
invention the making the rows [as] teeth of sheet iron in- 
stead of wire. The fact is, he was told that was my 
original idea, and my machine was perfectly described to 
him, even by drawings of every part. It is also plain that 
the principle is the same in whatever way the teeth are 
made, and that they may be made in a variety of ways. 
We commenced a suit against this man to have his patent 
vacated. After a tedious course of litigation and delay, 
we obtained a judgment on the ground that the principle 
was the same, and that his patent was surreptitious. His 
patent was vacated and declared to be void. He came for- 
ward and paid up the costs and purchased a license of us 
to use the machine for which he pretended to get a patent, 
and we now hold his note given for that license. By some 
neglect of the judge, or mistake of the clerk in entering 
the judgment, upon a new Democratic District Judge being 

patent, with its drawings and model, was reduced to ashes. In 1841, 
thirty-three years after the patent had expired, and sixteen years 
after Whitney's death, alleged copies of his patent and drawings 
were placed in the Patent Office by some one whose name cannot 
now be ascertained. Mr. D. A. Tompkins, in " Cotton," published 
by him in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1901, reprints these alleged 
copies side by side with their originals, disclosing a singular falsifi- 
cation. The specifications of 1841, abridged from those of 1793, close 
with a paragraph not in the original patent: "There are several 
modes of making the various parts of this machine, which, together 
with their particular shape and formation, are pointed out and 
explained in a description with drawings attached, as the [Patent] 
Act directs, and lodged in the office of the Secretary of State." 
These drawings differ widely from the originals: they include saws 
as alternative devices with prongs or needles: saws had no place in 
the drawings of 1793. Nor did the draftsman of 1841 take the 
trouble to watch a cotton gin at work. He applies its rotating han- 
dle to the brush cylinder instead of to the thrusting cylinder. The 
machine he drew, if executed in oak and iron, would refuse to work. 


appointed he found means to revive the cause. After an- 
other series of delays, and when his own judge was obliged 
to give judgment against him, still these designing rascals 
pretend to uphold his claim and make a handle of it to our 
disadvantage, and although I have no idea that any court 
can be so abandoned as to take any serious notice of it, 
yet I should like to obtain such testimony as will show it 
[the circular saw] to be my invention, and thereby put a 
complete stopper on that business. We have already one 
positive witness of the fact, the first person to whom the 
machine was shown, besides Miller's family, which was in 
the spring of 1793. ..." * 

From Whitney let us return to Governor James Jackson, 
of Georgia, who led the fight against him. In the course of 
his message of November 3, 1800, he thus refers to the 
Patent Act of 1793, and to Whitney's cotton gin as protected 
by that Act : 

" The operation of this [patent] law is the prevention and 
cramping of genius as it respects cotton machines, a mani- 

* Professor Denison Olmsted, in his "Biography of Whitney," 
first published in the American Journal of Science, 1832, says: 

" In one of his trials, Mr. Whitney adopted the following plan, in 
order to show how nugatory were the methods of evasion practised 
by his adversaries. They were endeavoring to have his claim to the 
invention set aside, on the ground that the teeth in his machine 
were made of wire, inserted into the cylinder of wood, while in the 
machine of Holmes, the teeth were cut in plates, or iron surround- 
ing the cylinder, forming a circular saw. Mr. Whitney, by an ingen- 
ious device, consisting chiefly of sinking the plate below the surface 
of the cylinder, and suffering the teeth to project, contrived to give 
the saw teeth the appearance of wires, while he prepared another 
cylinder in which the wire teeth were made to look like saw teeth. 
The two cylinders were produced in court, and the witnesses were 
called on to testify which was the invention of Whitney, and which 
that of Holmes. They accordingly swore the saw teeth upon Whit- 
ney, and the wire teeth upon Holmes; upon which the Judge de- 
clared that it was unnecessary to proceed any farther, the principle 
of both being manifestly the same." 


fest injury to the community, and in many respects a cruel 
extortion on the gin holders. The two important States of 
Georgia and South Carolina, where this article [cotton] 
appears to be becoming the principal staple, are made tribu- 
tary to two persons who have obtained the patent, and who 
demand, as I am informed, $200.00 for the mere liberty of 
using a ginning machine, in the erection of which the 
patentees do not expend one farthing, and which sum, as 
they now think their right secured, it is in their power to 
raise to treble that amount. ... I am informed from 
other sources that gins have been erected by other persons 
who have not taken Miller & Whitney's machine for a 
model, but which, in some small degree, resemble it, for it 
has been asserted that Miller & Whitney's gin did not, on 
trial, answer the intended purpose. The rights of these im- 
provements, however, it appears by the present [Patent] 
Act, are merged in the rights of the patentees [Miller & 
Whitney], who, it is supposed, on the lowest calculation, 
will make by it in the two States [Georgia and South Caro- 
lina] $100,000. Monopolies are odious in all countries, but 
more particularly in a government like ours. . . . Their 
tendency is certainly to raise the price of the [produced] 
article from the exclusive privilege to render the machine 
or article worse from the prevention of competition or im- 
provement and to impoverish poor artificers and planters 
who are forbidden from making, vending, or using it with- 
out license from the patentees, or, in case of doing so, are 
made liable to penalties in a court of law. The Federal 
Court docket, it is said, is filled with these actions. I do 
not doubt the power of Congress to grant these exclusive 
privileges, for the Constitution has vested them with it, 
but in all cases where they may become injurious to the 
community, they ought to be suppressed, or the parties be 
paid a moderate compensation for the discoveries from the 
government granting the patent. . . ." 

Whitney, on behalf of his firm, replied to Governor Jack- 

". . . It has always appeared to us that the private pur- 
suits of individual industry are entitled to the most sacred 
and inviolable protection of the laws, and that a good 


cause, where private right alone was concerned, must suffer 
trivial injuries without acquiring the claim to be presented 
before the solemn tribunal of public opinion. But when 
the title to our property is slandered, and political persecu- 
tion openly commenced against us, under pretense of of- 
ficial duty by our chief magistrate, silence on our part might 
be supposed to sanction the abuse. The urgency of the 
case must, therefore, be our apology for meeting Your 
Excellency on this ground, and, in making a defense of our 
property right, we shall draw a veil over the passions 
which have brought it into question, and, passing over the 
degraded condition to which the State has been reduced, 
shall only notice the measure in which we are immediately 
implicated, and shall consult the genius of our government 
rather than the acts of your administration, to enable us 
to preserve towards you that respect to which your office is 

" In the first place, Your Excellency will permit us to 
remove the deception which is palmed on the public to our 
disadvantage in the opprobrious term ' monopoly/ The re- 
spectable authors [Edward Coke and Adam Smith], whose 
names were brought forward to sanction your opinion on 
this subject, speak of the exclusive right to carry on a 
trade or manufacture as a ' monopoly/ and not of the pro- 
tection which government chooses to give the arts. The 
principle of the patent law, Your Excellency will please to 
observe, consists of a fair compromise between the Govern- 
ment and the author of the invention. There can be no 
doubt but that an invention in the arts must remain the ex- 
clusive right of the inventor under the most oppressive 
laws, while the secret is confined to him, and many in- 
stances have occurred of the preservation of the secret 
for years, and even of its final loss to the public on the 
death of its inventor. 

" To remedy which evil and to stimulate ingenious men 
to vie with each other, governments, by enacting patent 
laws, substantially agree that they will afford to the author 
of the invention the most ample protection in the use of 
his discovery for a certain term of years, on condition that, 
after that period, it shall become public property. And in 
carrying into effect all such discoveries, it is well known 
that every inventor must incur the whole expense and take 


on himself the entire risk of the success of his invention, 
in which, if he fails, his loss of time and money does not 
always constitute his greatest mortification, and, if he suc- 
ceeds, the public advantage must of necessity go hand in 
hand with his acquirements [acquisitions], since the in- 
ventor cannot expect his invention to be employed, or paid 
for, unless it excels all others in point of utility. In the 
present case, we believe the utility of our invention well 
known and candidly admitted by all rational men. At the 
time it was brought forward, there were millions of pounds 
of cotton in the seed, which awaited some improvement in 
the mode of ginning, and wealth, honor, and gratitude 
were promised to the fortunate exertions of genius which 
would insure the culture of green-seed cotton to the up- 

" Under such flattering auspices and under protection of 
the law, the invention was perfected, and, at great expense 
in money, which has never been repaid, and of time and 
labor which is unrewarded, and now Your Excellency 
would direct your influence to blast the harvest so hardly 
earned, and which for many years has waved in distant 
view and buoyed up our hopes under adversity and op- 
pression, which would have better suited the perpetrators 
of vice than the industrious and successful improvers of 
so useful an art. 

" The idle stories which Your Excellency condescends to 
repeat, with a view to dividing with some other person the 
credit of the invention, are not new to us, we have al- 
ways considered them as harmless, while they only served 
to amuse some ingenious mechanic, but the place they hold 
in the executive message requires us to observe that we 
know of no pretensions of this kind which can stand the 
smallest examination, and we shall challenge the most 
distant parts of Europe and Asia to produce a model, or 
a well attested account of a machine for cleaning cotton 
upon the principle of ours, which was known previous to 
our invention. We have not even ascertained that a single 
improvement has been made upon the machine, of which we 
have not complete evidence of our previous knowledge, and 
experimental use. But whether the form that we have 
adopted [the needle gin] is the best and deserves the 
preference to that in common use in the up-country [the 


saw gin], experience must determine. At present public 
opinion, we acknowledge, in this respect, to be against us. 

" The alternative which Your Excellency suggests of 
paying a moderate compensation to the patentees, or sup- 
pressing the patent, appears to us to be injudiciously chosen, 
for in the first of these cases, if the bargain is to be all 
on one side, and the persons who would defraud us of our 
right are to be the sole judges of the compensation to be 
made, the oppression would be too manifest. The proposi- 
tion of suppressing the patent is so bold a thing that we 
forbear giving it comment. . . ." * 

Spurred by this appeal, Governor Jackson appointed a 
committee to examine the cotton gin question, and report 
with all despatch. This committee recommended that the 
Senators and Representatives of Georgia in Congress en- 
deavor to obtain a modification of the Patent Act in so 
far as it affected the cotton gin, " as well as to limit the 
price of obtaining a right to using it, the price being at 
present unbounded." In case this modification did. not 
prove feasible, then Congress was to be induced to com- 
pensate Miller & Whitney for their invention, their patent 
was to be cancelled, and the Southern States relieved from 
a burdensome grievance. And now entered anticipation of 
the House of Governors established by President Roose- 
velt in 1908, as suggested by William George Jordan of 
New York. The Governor of Georgia, in conclusion, 
was to be asked to transmit copies of this report and its 
recommendations to the Executives of South Carolina, 
North Carolina, and Tennessee, to be laid before their 
Legislatures, with a request for the cooperation in Congress 
of their Senators and Representatives. 

South Carolina, as the chief cotton-growing State, was 
the first to respond. Her planters, in thousands, petitioned 

*These communications are given in full in "Cotton," by D. A. 
Tompkins, published in Charlotte, North Carolina, 1901. This book 
contains other data of prime interest. 


their Legislature to buy the Whitney patent, and on terms 
which seemed liberal, to the petitioners at least. In Sep- 
tember, 1801, this news came to Whitney in New Haven, 
from his friend and agent, Russell Goodrich. It was now 
the eighth year of his patent, and the unfortunate in- 
ventor had received from it little or nothing. With hope 
rekindled, he started in an open sulky, as was his wont, from 
New Haven for Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, 
pausing in Washington for a few days' rest. From Presi- 
dent Jefferson, and from James Madison, Secretary of 
State, he received letters so cordial that they rendered him 
good service in his later negotiations. Whitney duly 
reached Columbia, and pleaded his case with tact and skill. 
By this time the yearly cotton crop was more than thirty- 
five million pounds, many cotton planters had grown rich, 
and the whole broad belt of cotton country was thriving 
as never before. Whitney maintained that South Caro- 
lina should pay not less than $100,000 for his patent. After 
prolonged discussion, a vote of $50,000 was passed on De- 
cember 1 6, and this vote Whitney with reluctance ac- 
cepted, $20,000 being paid to him on account. To re- 
imburse itself, the State levied a special tax on cotton gins, 
requiring Miller & Whitney to refund such license fees as 
they had collected in the State, and to furnish the State 
with two model machines. 

On November 15, 1802, North Carolina followed suit, 
enacting a tax of two shillings and sixpence a year for 
five years on every saw within her borders. This tax, less 
six per cent, for collection, was to go to Miller & Whitney. 
It netted them about $20,000. Next year Tennessee fell 
into line, imposing an annual tax of one shilling and six- 
pence per saw for each of four years. Tennessee paid about 
$10,000 to the patentees. From other States, Mr. D. A. 
Tompkins estimates that $10,000 was received by Miller & 
Whitney ; so that their gross revenue was $90,000, of course 


greatly diminished by their legal and other expenses. This 
was their sole reward for having created for the South 
its principal crop, and added incalculably to the value of 
Southern plantations. 

Within a year of its vote to Miller & Whitney, the 
enmity against them in South Carolina, frankly declared 
from the first, had grown strong enough to control the 
Legislature. Its contract with the patentees was annulled, 
the promise to pay them was rescinded, and suit was entered 
to recover the $20,000 paid them a few months before. To 
gross dishonesty was added sheer brutality. In a bitter 
remonstrance the inventor cried: 

" I was seized and dragged to prison without being al- 
lowed to be heard in answer to the charge alleged against 
me, and, indeed, without the exhibition of any specific 
charge, in direct violation of the common right of every 
citizen of a free government. ... I have manifested no 
other disposition than to fulfil all the stipulations entered 
into with the State of South Carolina, with punctuality and 
good faith ; and I beg to observe farther, that I have indus- 
triously, laboriously, and exclusively devoted many years of 
the prime of my life to the invention and improvement of 
a machine from which the citizens of South Carolina have 
already realized immense profits, which is worth to them 
millions, and from which their posterity, to the latest 
generations, must continue to derive the most important 
benefits, and, in return, to be treated as a felon, a swindler, 
and a villain, has stung me to the very soul. And when I 
consider that this cruel persecution is inflicted by the very 
persons who are enjoying these great benefits and ex- 
pressly for the purpose of preventing my ever deriving the 
least advantage from my own labors, the acuteness of my 
feelings is altogether inexpressible." 

It is a heart, not a voice, that speaks to us here! 
Ostensibly the action against Whitney proceeded on the 
ground that a Swiss inventor had anticipated him in devis- 
ing a machine which was, in effect, a cotton gin. It was 


further charged that his firm had not refunded license fees 
as agreed, and had not delivered the two models as prom- 
ised. Whitney showed that the licenses not yet refunded 
amounted to only $580; and pleaded that his delay of a 
few months in furnishing his models was due to a wish 
to embody improvements, and execute the construction with 
his own hands. Incomparably more important was the 
question, Who invented the cotton gin? At the instance 
of General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and other stead- 
fast friends of Whitney, this question was referred to a 
committee of the Legislature. This committee took evi- 
dence with fulness and impartiality : it concluded that 
Whitney's claim as inventor of the cotton gin was un- 
questionable : and that, therefore, the State should reenact 
the agreement with his firm. When this report came up 
in the Senate, its adoption was defeated by a tie vote. But 
the House of Representatives voted favorably, whereupon 
the Senate took a second vote, recording 14 Yeas to 12 
Nays. If a single Senator who voted Yea had changed 
sides, Miller & Whitney would have lost their case, and, 
in all probability, have been forced into bankruptcy. We 
may be sure that they rejoiced greatly when at last they 
received their $30,000, completing the $50,000 voted them 
by South Carolina. As this sovereign State had been 
copied by her sister commonwealths in recognizing the 
rights of Miller & Whitney, so also was South Carolina 
followed in her attempt at repudiation. Twice the law- 
makers of North Carolina sought to abolish the tax im- 
posed for the benefit of the patentees of the cotton gin, 
and twice the attempt was a failure. Tennessee, halfway 
in the four years of her agreement, suspended its tax. Lit- 
tle wonder that Phineas Miller, worn and worried by un- 
ending contests with plunderers, fell into bad health and 
died on December 7, 1803, leaving Whitney to combat his 
foes single-handed. 


His foes prevailed. When Whitney applied to Congress 
for a renewal of his patent, it was refused. A few Repre- 
sentatives from the cotton districts favored his petition; 
they were overborne by a multitude of opponents. Thus 
ended, as far as Whitney was concerned, one of the most 
remarkable chapters in the annals of industry. In vain 
did Whitney recount that his gin multiplied a thousandfold 
the efficiency of labor, so as to confer stupendous benefits 
upon the Southern States, by enabling them to supply the 
civilized world at a low price with its chief clothing. From 
no State had he received as much as half a cent a pound 
on the cotton separated by his machines in a single twelve- 
month. Whitney, in the course of a letter to Robert Ful- 
ton, reviewed the forces which withstood him : 

" The difficulties with which I have to contend have 
originated, principally, in the want of a disposition in man- 
kind to do justice. My invention was new and distinct 
from every other; it stood alone. It was not interwoven 
with anything before known; and it can seldom happen 
that an invention or improvement is so strongly marked, 
and can be so specifically and clearly identified ; and I have 
always believed that I should have no difficulty in causing 
my rights to be respected if my invention had been less 
valuable, and been used only by a small portion of the com- 
munity. But the use of the machine being immensely 
profitable to almost every planter in the cotton districts, 
all were interested in trespassing upon the patent right,, 
and each kept the other in countenance. Demagogues 
made themselves popular by misrepresentation and un- 
founded clamors, both against the right and against the 
law made for its protection. Hence there arose associa- 
tions and combinations to oppose both. At one time but 
few men in Georgia dared to come into court and testify 
to the most simple facts within their knowledge relative 
to the use of the machine. In one instance I had great 
difficulty in proving that the machine had been used in 
Georgia, although, at the same moment, there were sep- 
arate sets of this machinery in motion within fifty yards of 


the building in which the court sat, and all so near that the 
rattling of the wheels was distinctly heard on the steps 
of the Court House." 

Whitney, indeed, created the keystone for which the 
arch of textile industry stood agape. Hargreaves invented 
his spinning-jenny in 1767; two years later Arkwright de- 
vised his spinning-frame for warp; in 1774, Compton ef- 
fectively united both machines : then came Cartwright's 
power-loom. All these were cheaply driven by the steam 
engine of Watt. And yet, for lack of cotton at a low 
price, its manufacture had but limited scope. Cotton came 
to Great Britain mainly from Asia and the West Indies, 
where slaves or coolies plucked lint from seed with their 
ringers, or turned the slow and faulty roller gin. Here 
and there in the Southern States of the Union a little cot- 
ton was sown in gardens, chiefly because of its handsome 
flowers. In 1784, an American vessel arrived at Liverpool, 
says Denison Olmsted, Whitney's biographer, with eight 
bags of cotton on board. It was seized by the Custom 
House, under the conviction that cotton could not be grown 
in America. In 1785, five bags were landed at Liverpool ; 
in 1786, six bags; in 1787, 108; in 1788, 282. In 1793, the 
year in which Whitney devised his gin, at least 5,000,000 
pounds of cotton were harvested in the Southern States. 
This huge figure was soon utterly eclipsed; in 1825, the 
year of Whitney's death, the cotton exported from the 
United States was valued at $36,846,000 ; and all other ex- 
ports at $30,094,000, considerably less. Let us leap now to 
1912, with a crop estimated at 7,000,000,000 pounds, worth 
about $770,000,000. 

For seventy years after its birth the cotton gin exerted 
as striking an influence in the field of politics as in the 
markets of the world. Whitney's wheels undoubtedly 
served to rivet the shackles of the negro slave. When cot- 
ton planting was still unknown in America, the tasks for 


field hands were few and not especially gainful. No sooner 
were Whitney's machines set up, than planters entered upon 
a new and immense profit. To plow the ground for cotton, 
to sow and weed and till its fields, to pluck the bolls in 
their successive harvests, and then to gin and press the 
lint, gave all hands lucrative work the year round. The 
wealth and power thus won played a leading part in Se- 
cession, so that, during four years of Civil War, the fate 
of the Union trembled in the balance. Thus entangled in 
the skein of invention are its threads of bane and blessing. 
Whitney's saw gin, little changed from the form he gave 
it, separates most of the cotton grown in America. Fans 
have been added to its brushes, and steels, much more flex- 
ible and lasting than those of 1790, appear to-day in the 
machines descended from his model. Since his time, the 
roller gin has been much improved, so as to gain a little 
upon the saw gin, as less liable to damage the staple. These 
are times when cotton culture, like every other industry, is 
being overhauled in the light of scientific management. In 
this work the Bureau of Plant Industry at Washington is 
playing a leading part. Its assistant director, Mr. Nathan 
A. Cobb, has divided cotton into eighteen grades, each of a 
specific length and strength of staple. He places a fiber be- 
twixt two glass plates, and throws its enlarged image 
upon a screen ; the length of that fiber is at once measured 
and recorded as he runs a small toothed wheel along its 
devious line. It is probable that all the Cotton Exchanges 
of the Union will adopt this simple apparatus and the stand- 
ard grades suggested by the Bureau, so as to abolish disputes 
as to the lengths and qualities of specific fibers. Experi- 
ments, also, are afoot with a view to ascertaining the speed 
at which a given grade of cotton should be ginned. Tests 
of length and strength of staple, before and after ginning, 
will settle this question, and will further decide upon the 
claims regarding new models of gins. 


To come back to Whitney and his defeat. When he be- 
came convinced that he must abandon all hope of an in- 
come from his invention, he cast about for a field of en- 
terprise suited to his talents. He chose the manufacture 
of firearms. Here he introduced economies which have so 
greatly inured to the benefit of industry as to parallel the 
revolution he wrought in cotton production. All this be- 
gan quietly enough, and in distant France. There, about 
1765, General Gribeauval reduced the gun-carriages of the 
French artillery to classes, and so designed many of their 
parts that they could be applied to any carriage of their 
class. This was the beginning of standardization in manu- 
facture, which took a vast stride under the guidance of 
Whitney. The methods which he originated in the produc- 
tion of arms we shall presently observe. Those methods 
passed long ago, with inestimable gain, to the production of 
tools, machines, and engines, from plows to divide furrows 
to the steam turbines which impel ocean greyhounds. 

Manifold, indeed, are the gifts of war to peace, and many 
a tool of industry is but an old weapon in a new guise. A 
flint, as an arrowhead, has cleft skulls by the myriad: to- 
day not one man in a thousand is deft enough to shape an 
arrowhead such as were common in prehistoric days. It 
was probably in smiting one flint against another for battle, 
that sparks were struck for the 'first fire-kindler, with all that 
that has meant for art and comfort. From ruder stones 
have plainly descended the hammers of our shops and 
factories. Battle-axes, strong and sharp, told early for- 
esters how to fell oaks and cedars with a new ease. Swords, 
keen and elastic, are the dignified parents of knives and 
planes, of the chisels of carpenters and masons. To-day 
at Toledo a steel-worker offers a visitor as a memento not 
a sword or a scimetar, but a pair of scissors. Prodigal ex- 
periments, such as governments alone conduct, were in 
hand for years by the chief War Departments of Europe 


to produce steel armor of the utmost resistance, and steel 
projectiles of surpassing might. Alloys thus created, which 
otherwise would never have seen the light of day, were then 
calmly appropriated by builders of turret lathes, steam tur- 
bines, motor-cars, and even scoops for dredges. 

Gunpowder, when first handed to soldiers, changed the 
face of war, by making a steady aim and a clear eye count 
for more than prowess. Let us note what industry does 
with this compound of saltpeter. During the years of the 
Civil War, which broke out in 1861 at Fort Sumter, the 
Northern States burned more gunpowder in their mines, 
tunnels, and quarries than on their battlefields. It is gun- 
powder that carries across sea and fog the lines of every 
life-saving station in the world. That Napoleon might 
transport his powder carts and heavy artillery, he gave 
Europe the best roads since those of Rome. To-day these 
highways bear burdens greater than Napoleon ever laid on 
them, as they carry the freight and passengers of Italy, 
France, and Switzerland. 

And throughout its vast and expanding breadths, what 
is the organization of modern industry, under such a cap- 
tain as Whitney, but military rule over again, with due 
modification? Instead of a commander in uniform, we 
have a chief at his desk, who, like Grant or Kitchener, is at 
the head of his army because he deserves to be. His duty is 
to plan the cutting of a canal, the building of automobiles, 
or the construction of a railroad. Every man in the ranks, 
whether endowed chiefly with brains or with hands, is well 
aware that most will be done and most divided when orders 
are faithfully obeyed. A worthy successor to Eli Whitney 
is Frederick W. Taylor, of Philadelphia,* who has quad- 
rupled the output of metal-cutting machines by an elaborate 
study of how they are best designed, fed, and operated. 

*His methods are set forth in "The Principles of Scientific Man- 
agement," and "Shop Management": New York, 1911. 


Under such a leader the rule of thumb gives place to the 
much more gainful rule of science. No machine-tender of 
intelligence demurs to an instruction-card drawn up for him 
by such a chief. The best way to exert himself is sketched 
before his eyes, and to do anything else would be to pro- 
duce distinctly less. For ages have brigades, shoulder to 
shoulder, fought opposed brigades. Incidentally, all learned 
self-control, courage, discipline, loyalty to a competent 
leader. These lessons have been inherited by free men 
who employ their knowledge and skill to build, not to de- 
stroy. They turn their steel not upon other men, but upon 
the obstacles of nature, that nature may let fall its arms 
and become their friend. 

To return to Eli Whitney, a standard-bearer in this 
transition from weapon to tool, from war to peace. In 
1797, when he was in the thick of his law suits in Georgia, 
with the stream steadily against him, he despaired of win- 
ning any reward whatever from his cotton gin. So he cast 
about for a field where his ingenuity and organizing faculty 
would yield him a competence. This field, wherever found, 
must be safe from depredators. His choice fell upon the 
production of muskets for the United States Army. 
Through the influence of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the 
Treasury, Whitney on January 14, 1793, received a contract 
for 10,000 stands of arms at $13.40, amounting to $134,000, 
a good deal of money in those days. Of these arms, 4,000 
were to be delivered by the end of September, 1794, and the 
remaining 6,000 within the twelvemonth thereafter. Bonds 
for $30,000, signed by Whitney's friends, were given for 
the due fulfilment of his contract. 

He began work without a day's delay. He had not only 
to build, he was obliged to design, many of the tools and 
machines he needed. He must gather and test unfamiliar 
woods, metals, and alloys. His workmen had to be trained 
to tasks never before attempted in America or elsewhere. 


He had hardly any capital, but his credit was high. Solid 
men of New Haven knew his ability, and were proud to 
become his sureties when he borrowed $10,000 from the 
Bank of New Haven. Secretary Wolcott, on behalf of the 
Government, advanced $5,000 when the contract was signed, 
and stood ready to grant more as soon as manufacturing 
was fairly under way. 

Whitney chose, as the site of his factory, a stretch of 
land at the foot of East Rock, two miles from New Haven, 
where a waterfall gave him the motive-power he required. 
When once work proceeded in earnest, he found his main 
difficulty to lie in the poor quality of his raw recruits. He 
wrote to Mr. Wolcott : 

" I find my personal attention and oversight are more con- 
stantly and essentially necessary to every branch of the 
work, than I apprehended. Mankind, generally, are not to 
be depended upon, and the best workmen I can find are in- 
capable of directing. Indeed, there is no branch of the 
work that can proceed well, scarcely for a single hour, 
unless I am present." 

The slow pace of his work-people perturbed his cal- 
culations. At the end of a year, instead of 4,000 muskets, 
he could deliver only 500. It was eight years instead of 
two before his contract was out of hand. His factory was 
planned as a single huge machine, of a type wholly new. 
In an armory, before Whitney's day, one man made locks, 
another made barrels, another carved stocks, and so on. 
Each man, highly skilled, produced by himself a distinct 
part of a musket. This division of labor Whitney sup- 
planted by so apportioning work that little or no skill was 
demanded. He separated the various tasks necessary to 
produce a musket, planing, filing, drilling, and the like. 
Then, at each of these operations, simplified to the utmost 
degree, he kept a group busy. For their assistance he in- 
troduced three aids, since indispensable in manufacure 


drilling by templets or patterns, filing by jigs or guides, and 
milling irregular forms. From first to last a model musket 
was copied with precision, so that every lock, for example, 
was exactly like every other among thousands. When all 
the parts needed to form a weapon were assembled, they 
united as a musket much superior to an arm produced on 
any other plan. In case of repair, a new part exactly filled 
the place of an old part, and at trifling cost. Year by year 
Whitney invented many tools, machines, and improvements 
as need arose. None of these did he patent: he had 
patented the cotton gin, and that was enough. It is a great 
achievement to contrive a new and useful machine. It is a 
much greater feat to confer a new efficiency on all the ma- 
chines in a broad field of manufacture. 

Whitney's methods were duly adopted by the Government 
Armories at Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harper's 
Ferry, Virginia, where their economies soon exceeded 
$25,000 a year. In 1856 the British War Office installed 
similar plans, and in 1871 and 1872 the example spread to 
Russia and France, Germany and Italy. Every advance of 
design in engines and machines gives standardization a new 
field and a new gain. Engine-lathes, automatic planers, 
modern milling machines, and the Blanchard lathe for carv- 
ing irregular forms in wood, are but new fingers for the 
hands of the men who to-day follow the footsteps of the 
musket-maker of New Haven. 

A striking contrast appears between the Springfield 
Armory of Whitney's day and that Armory as now operated. 
Colonel Stephen English Blunt, in command, says under 
date of May 16, 1911 : 

" With the Springfield plant equipped as it is, with suf- 
ficient machines so that each of the 1,004 machine opera- 
tions on the rifle has its particular machine, thus avoiding 
the necessity of changing fixtures and adjusting of tools 
and machines, it requires 24 working hours to make a com- 


plete rifle. To make 10,000 rifles would, therefore, require 
240,000 working hours, or 30,000 working days of eight 
hours each. On account of the size of the present Armory 
it would, of course, not be economical to work as few as 
loo men. The smallest economical working force for this 
plant would be 600 men ; they would make 10,000 rifles in 
50 working days. It would take 100 men at least two years 
to make 10,000 rifles. The Springfield Armory has a plant 
capable of manufacturing 10,000 rifles in less than seven 
days, working double shifts if the necessity should arise. 

" The musket manufactured by Whitney under his con- 
tract of January, 1798, was a flint-lock, 59^ inches long, 
.69-inch caliber, had about 45 component parts, and fired 
a round bullet of one ounce, at a muzzle velocity of 800 
feet per second; while the latest Springfield rifle is a 
magazine rifle 43.2 inches long, .3O-inch caliber, has 105 
component parts, fires an elongated and sharp-pointed jack- 
eted bullet weighing 150 grains, less than one-third of an 
ounce, at a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second." 

In 1812, Whitney was awarded a further contract by the 
War Department, this time for 15,000 stands of arms. 
Then followed contracts with the State of New York, and 
with leading firms throughout the Union. His system was 
constantly extended and improved, so that he earned an 
ample competence, as he had hoped at the outset. He was 
now sure that he could safely incur the responsibilities of 
matrimony. In 1816, he became engaged to Miss Henri- 
etta Edwards, a daughter of Judge Pierpont Edwards. 
They were married in the following January, a son and 
three daughters being born to their union. But the hap- 
piness of the great inventor was to be brief. His repeated 
journeys between North and South, taken, as they were, in 
an open vehicle, and often at inclement seasons, had im- 
paired a frame naturally rugged. In the course of 1824 
he developed a distressing malady, which ended his life on 
January 8, 1825, shortly after he had completed his fifty- 
ninth year. His conduct as a patient was in line with his 


career as an inventor. He inquired minutely into the 
causes and progress of his disease, examining charts of 
anatomy by the hour. In the intervals between his parox- 
ysms of agony, he devised surgical instruments for the re- 
lief of himself and of others in like extremity. Eli Whit- 
ney, in his years of vigor, had created for his fellowmen 
benefits beyond computation: under the shadow of death 
he sought to subtract from their pain. He had planned a 
new mansion for himself and his family : he requested that it 
be duly reared after his death. 

What manner of man was Eli Whitney, as in health and 
strength he strode across the Green in New Haven? Like 
George Stephenson, he was cast in a large mold, and stood 
head and shoulders above ordinary folk. He was a kindly 
man, whose friendships were warm and clinging: his hand 
never relaxed its grasp of the chums of his youth. Many 
a man is honest: this man was scrupulously honorable: it 
was his fate often to be scurvily treated, and then his re- 
sentment made him terrible. His chief faculty, of course, 
was invention, his ability to strike a new path out of an 
old difficulty. This talent was not confined within the 
walls of his factory. Every building he reared, and these 
included dwellings for his work people, bore the marks of 
his original brain. He used cement liberally for founda- 
tions and walls, with prophecy of its wider applications to- 
day. The drawers of his desk were fastened by a single 
lock, in a fashion now usual. Even the mangers for his 
cattle were improved at his hands. He placed a small 
weight at the end of each halter, so that its wearer could 
move its head with ease, and yet could neither entangle it- 
self in its rope, nor waste its hay. 

His judgments were slowly matured: they were never 
expressed before they were ripe. In experiment, in his 
quest for materials, in his choice of lieutenants, he was pa- 
tience itself. He could plant to-day, and for ten years 


calmly await his harvest. Unlike most inventors, whatever 
he began he finished. New projects beckoned to him in 
vain, so long as unfinished work remained on his hands. 
The unflinching will of the man revealed itself in the hour 
of death, as his tremulous fingers were lifted to close his 


SEVENTY years ago a great triumvirate, Clay, Calhoun, 
and Webster, were the idols of America. Their portraits 
adorned parlors and offices, courtrooms and capitols, from 
one end of the Union to the other. Here and there an ad- 
mirer, more prosperous than his neighbors, had a bust of 
one of these worthies on his mantelpiece. The continuing 
remembrance of these great leaders is due in no small 
measure to the thousands of pictures and effigies thus set 
up throughout the country, and still to be found in many a 
farmhouse and mansion of South Carolina, Kentucky, and 
New Hampshire. We may feel certain that all three states- 
men grew at last thoroughly tired of posing to artists, so 
that they rejoiced at a reprieve, at least so far .as sculptors 
were concerned. This was promised one morning in 1840, 
as Clay, Calhoun, and Webster were invited to view busts of 
themselves copied in wood by a cheap and simple process. 
These figures, beautifully executed, awaited them on a 
table in the rotunda of the Capitol. Beside them stood 
Thomas Blanchard, who seemed truth incarnate, so trans- 
parent was his eye, so straightforward his speech. Yet he 
said that these admirable busts had been carved on a lathe 
of his invention almost as readily as so many gunstocks. 
This machine he had invented and patented long ago, but 
only that year had he built it on lines delicate enough to 
reproduce statuary. Its chief business, indeed, had been to 
shape stocks for guns, handles for tools, lasts for shoes, and 
tackle for ships. Pirates had been so numerous and active 
a band, that this wonderful machine had brought its in- 
ventor but little reward. He had, therefore, come to Wash- 
ington to ask from Congress a favor without precedent, 


[From a portrait in the possession of F. S. Blanchard, Worcester, Mass.] 


a second renewal of his patent. In the Capitol, beneath the 
table where he displayed his busts, was a basement room 
where the inventor showed his lathe as it repeated in oak 
the classical features of Washington. As the principle of 
the machine came clearly into view, Webster exclaimed: 
" How simple it is, after all ! " Blanchard, thanks chiefly 
to Webster, was accorded a third term for his patent, on 
the ground of the high utility and singular originality of 
his invention, and in view of the inadequate return he had 
derived from it. Rufus Choate, the eminent jurist of Bos- 
ton, who opposed the inventor's petition, could only say: 
" Blanchard has ' turned the heads ' of these Congressmen, 
so we need not wonder at his victory." Sculptors, day 
after day, came to view the Blanchard machine. In their 
own reproduction of a bust they were obliged, from mo- 
ment to moment, to take precise measurements, repeating 
each dimension with anxious care. That such a task should 
be performed by a self-acting cutter was simply amazing. 

Blanchard's lathe, as it first left his hands, remains the 
core of its successor to-day. Its principle flashed into his 
brain because among the prime resources of his workshop 
were revolving cutters. Let us retrace a few of the steps 
which led to these marvelous tools. Knives or chisels were 
doubtless in their first estate mere flints, or bits of shell, to 
divide a fish or a bird into morsels, to hack a root or a tree, 
to sever a hide into thongs. Much more recent than the 
knife is the wheel, which probably began work as a round 
log turning beneath a burden dragged on the ground. 
When knives were joined with wheels, their union at once 
conquered a vast field forever denied to simple knives, or 
mere wheels, by themselves. This union was prophesied as 
soon as a stone was rounded into a wheel, mounted on an 
axle, and bidden to grind blades of iron or bronze. From 
that contrivance are descended all the grindstones of to- 
day, and the wheels of emery, corundum, and carborundum, 


ablaze in ten thousand machine shops at this hour. But 
every such wheel has its appointed limits : it removes iron 
or steel, copper or brass, particle by particle. In a much 
wider province of shaping, the tasks are bolder and the 
pace swifter. A wheel armed on its rim with steel cut- 
ters, as in modern milling machines, sweeps off a thick shav- 
ing or even a goodly slice. Revolving cutters, much simpler 
than these, were used to plane iron by Bramah as early as 
1811. Cutters quite as keen and strong were in daily use 
by Blanchard for years. In his lathe he broadened their 
scope by nothing less than a leap. 

Let us look at his machine as it produces a gunstock. 
On an axle slowly revolved are placed a stock to be copied 
and a wooden block in every way larger. Parallel to this 
axle is hinged a rectangular carriage, sliding gradually from 
one end of the lathe to the other. A spindle forming the 
outer boundary of this carriage may freely swing through 
a wide arc: it carries two wheels of like diameter, about 
three feet apart. One of them, pressed by a weight or a 
spring against the rotating stock to be copied, is small 
enough to touch its every point. The second wheel has at 
its rim a score of sharp cutters. As the first wheel feels 
its way along every contour of the original stock from end 
to end, its path is duplicated by the cutting wheel, which 
removes wood enough from its block to leave behind a copy 
of the model stock. When once the lathe is duly set and 
started, its work proceeds to a finish without a touch from 
its attendant. His task, therefore, is much easier than 
when he copies a simple diagram with a pantograph, for 
then he has to trace with his fingers the whole course of 
every copied line. Strange that to reproduce a figure of 
three dimensions should be less trouble than to copy a figure 
of but two! 

Thomas Blanchard, the inventor of this wonderful ma- 
chine, was born in Sutton, Worcester County, Massa- 

[Museum, U. S. Armory, Springfield, Mass.] 


chusetts, on June 24, 1788. His ancestors, of mingled 
French and English blood, were among the first settlers in 
that vicinity. His father, Samuel Blanchard, was a hard- 
working, thrifty farmer. How large a family he had we 
do not know, but o.f his six sons, Thomas was the fifth. 
This boy's talent for building and contriving was manifest 
almost from his cradle. At ten years of age he whittled 
from cedar shingles a tiny mill, to be impelled by a breeze 
or a brook. The poor fellow stammered badly, and this 
brought him much thoughtless ridicule. At school he was 
shy and seemed backward: it was ever with joy that he 
dropped his slate and copybook to take up a penknife and 
chisel. His father, though a Yankee, cared little about 
tools and machinery, and he glanced without interest at the 
handicraft of his ingenious boy. Nor was there much else 
in the neighborhood to nourish the budding powers of this 
young mechanic. The nearest blacksmith's shop was six 
miles off, and it was but seldom that his father went there. 
Thither Thomas was taken one day to see a horse shod. 
This feat, new to the boy, he watched with both eyes. 
What most amazed him was to see the smith weld two 
pieces of iron as if mere dough on a baking-board. Why 
not repeat this marvel at home? 

Near his father's house was a shed, once used for weav- 
ing, and now encumbered with hoes and harrows, plows and 
spades, old and new. In one corner of its attic lay a heap 
of scrap iron, from which the lad chose pieces likely to be 
serviceable. With stones and bricks gathered from the 
farmyard, he built a forge, like the blacksmith's, only much 
smaller. Fuel was needed next: where was he to get it? 
When his mother's back was turned he took coals from her 
kitchen grate; these, thoroughly drenched, he quietly con- 
veyed to his forge. A big iron wedge, firmly driven into 
a log, would do for his anvil. When these preparations 
were well under way, Thomas heard joyful news. His 


father and mother next morning were to visit a friend 
twenty miles away. Their absence would give him a chance 
to weld a dozen bits of iron together if he liked. When 
his parents drove off, he was soon plying a bellows at his 
little forge. In a few minutes its blaze was fierce enough 
to soften his metal, so that it took any shape he pleased. 
But to weld any of his iron scraps proved impossible, for 
the reason, then unknown to the boy, that his fire was not 
hot enough. He saw with dismay that he must call a sec- 
ond time on the blacksmith, so as fully to learn an art 
not so easy as it seemed to be. As the lad stood surveying 
his darkened lumps of metal, in strode his father, wonder- 
ing what all this smoke and fire were about. His scolding 
was qualified by paternal admiration of the spunk and gump- 
tion so plainly in view. But it was a good while before 
Thomas Blanchard undertook his second task at a forge. 
His father had hoped to make a farmer of him, and when 
with reluctance, he saw that his son was resolved to be a 
mechanic, he said : " Well, my boy, learn blacksmithing if 
you like. Only learn it thoroughly, and never let a job 
leave your hands unless it is the best you can do." 

While yet a schoolboy, he took his first step as an in- 
ventor, holding fast to his father's injunction of thorough- 
ness. A schoolmate one day told him of an apple-paring 
machine of lightning pace that he had seen in Boston. 
Without so much as a hint regarding its construction, 
Blanchard said : " I will make one." Within a week he built 
a parer of wood and iron, its spindle swiftly rotating an 
apple as the crank was turned; but its knife at once slid 
toward the core of the fruit, instead of removing its rind. 
To remedy this fault, our young inventor took occasion to 
observe that a hand-parer, by way of gage, always kept 
his thumb close to the rind he was slicing off. Accord- 
ingly he added a gage of wire to his blade, which now 
pared its fruit just as it should. From that day forward 


Thomas Blanchard was in high favor at paring bees near 
and far : he could easily peel more fruit than any six rivals 
together, no matter how quick their fingers and thumbs. 
His apple-parer taught him a lesson he never forgot: that 
if a machine is to supplant the human hand, it must faith- 
fully imitate every successive act of that hand. 

Blanchard's parer was a hit both social and mechanical, 
and it gave him confidence to attack devices for work much 
more serious than apple-paring. At West Milbury, a few 
miles from Sutton, Stephen, an elder brother, kept twenty 
boys and men busy at tack-making. He gave Thomas work 
at a vise, where, hammer in hand, he headed tacks one by 
one. It was so tedious a task that the lad became disgusted, 
especially when Saturday night brought him a mere pit- 
tance as wages. One of the hands in the factory was em- 
ployed to count tacks, that they might go into packets of a 
hundred each. Blanchard devised a self-acting counter, ar- 
ranging a clockwheel so that it advanced one tooth every 
time a heading blow fell on a tack. At every hundreth 
blow, a bell was rung, announcing that it was time to fold 
up a packet. Blanchard's brother looked askance at this 
contrivance, but its inventor was not to be chilled by lack of 
sympathy. He determined to pass from counting blows to 
dealing blows, so timed and directed as to produce tacks 
better an& faster than human hands ever did. Machines 
for this purpose had been brought out long before, but 
without practical success. A machine that would avoid 
their faults would be profitable, and this young Blanchard 
believed he could design. He mentioned his project to his 
brother, who said : " It takes a knack to make a tack : no 
machine can do it." 

Blanchard was about eighteen when he began to build a 
tack-making machine. For the next six years he kept at 
work upon it at odd times, taking it with him as he went 
from place to place in a round of factories and shops. 


Whenever he saw how to simplify the action of a knife 
or hammer, an earlier plan was discarded that very day. 
When he had reached twenty-four, he felt that he could 
bestow no further improvement on the thoroughly built 
model he now showed his family. His machine steadily 
poured out two hundred tacks a minute, all with better 
heads and points than those of hand production. His 
brother Stephen had been sure that tacks of ordinary size, 
such as fasten carpets, were too small to be shaped by ma- 
chinery. He was silent when a machine-made tack weigh- 
ing the one-thousandth part of an ounce was placed on his 
palm. Blanchard sold his patent for this machine for 
$5,000. This seemed to him a goodly price: it was a 
mere trifle for so valuable a property. The purchasers 
shrewdly marketed their tacks without disclosing that they 
were made by machinery. As they charged the prices then 
paid for hand-made goods, their profits were encouraging. 

This tack-machine was so well designed that it remains to 
this day much the same as when it left its modeler's shop. 
In Blanchard's time it was fed by hand : in its modern forms 
it feeds itself. A single tacker and a quick boy can now 
mind as many as twelve machines, while keeping their dies 
well ground and in good order. Blanchard carefully 
studied the successive operations of making a tack by 
hand : he then so disposed his levers and wheels, his knives 
and hammers, that these operations were duly copied, with a 
force and at a speed far surpassing the possibilities of fingers 
and fists. First of all, thin plates of steel were divided into 
strips, each strip as broad as a tack is long. Just enough 
steel for a blank was then cut off by the contact of two 
upper knives with a lower bed knife below. In this cut, 
both upper knives worked as one. As soon as the steel for 
a tack was cut off, the left-hand knife stoppe'd, and the 
right-hand knife held the blank by the aid of a steel finger. 
This finger brought down the blank into the gripping dies 






i, Spindle. 2, Connecting-rod to operate heading lever. 3, 
Gripping lever. 4, Logy jaw for cutting plates. 5, Carrier jaw, 
carrying tack to gripping dies. 6, Heading lever. 7, Feed gear. 
8, Boom. 9, Clearer. 10, Barrel, u, Fiddle-bow. 12, Feed-rod. 
13, Elbow or feed arm. 14, Spring to hold tack while carried to the 
die. 15, Haul-off lever. 16, Nippers for holding plate. 17, Rest 
for nipper rods. 

In operating this machine the plate, of a width and thickness suited to 
making the required tacks, is held in the nippers and fed through the barrel 
(10) by means of a weight. The barrel is set at such an angle that the two 
jaws (4 and 5), actuated by cams on the spindle, cut off a wedge-shaped blank 
with the thick part of the wedge toward the header (6). The bearer (14) is 
under that portion of the wedge which is to form the head, and after the two 
jaws have together cut off the blank, the logy jaw (4) comes to a stop, and the 
blank or wedge is carried down between the leader-tool and the bearer to the 
proper point to be taken by the gripper (3), which holds it to be headed by the 
header (6). As soon as the header recedes and the dies open, the tack is ejected 
by the clearer (Q) operated by a cam on the hub of the balance wheel. The 
plate is turned over every half-revolution by the fiddle-bow operated by the 
elbow and feed-rod from the gear (7). 

LCourtesy of Henry Perkins Foundry Co., Bridgewater, Mass.] 


which closed upon it, while a tool came up and delivered a 
blow which formed the head. The dies now opened, and a 
knock-out attachment drove the finished tack into a pan 
beneath. In modern machines these five operations pro- 
ceed at the rate of 275 tacks a minute. Fingers of steel do 
what fingers of flesh had to do a century ago, and 
with no waste of either metal or motive-power. To-day, as 
in Blanchard's time, most tacks have their heads formed 
by a hammer. If heads of round or other shape are desired, 
dies of corresponding outline are employed. A minor im- 
provement suggests itself. A little labor would be saved if 
the metal were fed in continuous rolls instead of in flat 

Blanchard's success in devising this tack machine brought 
him fame throughout New England as a man of rare skill 
and inventive faculty. Naturally enough he soon took part 
in the quiet revolution then under way in the manufactures 
of America, where a subdivision of labor, and the produc- 
tion of interchangeable parts, was constantly advancing un- 
der the impulse received from Eli Whitney and his com- 
peers. In Milbury, a few miles from his brother's tack 
factory, was an armory which produced muskets of high 
quality. Its proprietor welded his gun barrels under a 
hammer, and then turned them for almost their whole length 
on a lathe, leaving about three inches at the breech to be 
chipped and filed along two flat and oval sides. This task 
of finishing cost one dollar per weapon, a sum which the 
gunmaker was anxious to reduce. He sent for Blanchard, 
and asked him to devise, if he could, an appliance which 
would mechanically finish his muskets. Blanchard carefully 
inspected a completed weapon, looked critically at its lathe, 
and began a monotonous whistle, as was his wont when in 
deep study. Before the end of that week he had added 
to the gun lathe a simple cam motion, controlled by a lever, 
which executed the flats and ovals of a butt with ease and at 


trifling cost. One afternoon, while a journeyman was 
watching this cam at work, he said to a shopmate : " Well, 
Blanchard can't take my job away from me, for I turn gun- 
stocks." Blanchard overheard this remark, and muttered 
to himself : " I am not so sure of that. I'll think it over." 

There and then the desire to build a self-acting lathe to 
turn gunstocks took possession of him, and refused dis- 
missal from his mind. Day by day he felt more and more 
convinced that such a lathe was feasible, and that he was 
the man to invent it. While manifold schemes for this ma- 
chine were afloat just below the level of his conscious 
thought, he was driving homeward through Brimfield, 
thirty miles from Sutton. In an instant there emerged to 
his imagination a hinged carriage to hold a feeling wheel, 
and beside it, a twin cutting and copying wheel. He cried : 
" I have got it ! " Two passers-by heard this exclamation. 
One of them said to his comrade : " I guess that man's 
crazy." Within a month Blanchard built a lathe which 
carved so neat a gunstock that it hardly asked a touch 
from sandpaper. While at Washington securing his patent 
for this lathe, Blanchard exhibited his machine at the War 
Department. One of the company was an admiral who in- 
quired jocosely: "Can you turn a seventy- four frigate?" 
" Yes," replied the inventor, " if you will furnish a block." 

Blanchard next entered the service of the United States 
Armory at Springfield, Massachusetts, where he erected, in 
1822, a large copying lathe, still on view in the Museum of 
the Armory. It carved two gunstocks per hour. Its suc- 
cessor, much smaller and neater, works nearly six times as 
fast. In addition to setting up his lathe, Blanchard created 
or improved at least a dozen machines for the manufacture 
of firearms. One of these appliances cut square mortises 
to receive the lock, barrel, butt-plates, and other mountings 
of a musket. His absorption in all this arduous toil di- 
verted his attention from his chief item of property, the 


copying lathe. This gave a horde of pirates a welcome 
opportunity; soon more than fifty of their machines were 
running throughout the country, passing out of Vermont 
and Maine northward into Canada. To hunt down and 
punish these thieves was both costly and baffling. The 
United States Armories at Springfield and Harper's Ferry 
paid him a royalty of nine cents for each gunstock turned on 
his lathes. Apart from these payments, his invention for 
years scarcely netted him any income whatever. His 
troubles with rogues began, indeed, before the issue of his 
original patent. While he was building his first model, he 
was watched by a machinist who copied his work day by 
day. When Blanchard reached Washington and applied for 
his patent, he found that a caveat had been filed on the 
previous day. But the would-be pirate was foiled. 
Blanchard, on the morning when he had first tested his 
model, had called in two witnesses, who noted the date. 
This precaution secured a just title to the inventor. Of 
course, his patent did not extend to Canada, so that his 
lathes taken across the border made lasts by the million, to 
be exported to the United States free of duty. Blanchard 
appealed to Congress to have a high tariff imposed upon 
these wares; after years of delay this was enacted and the 
importations from Canada came to an end. In its latest 
form a Blanchard lathe cuts six to ten pairs of lasts per 
hour, depending upon their size and the finish desired. The 
five cutters of a last machine are so shaped as to take cuts 
successively deeper and deeper. 

,It was in developing the manufacture of shoe-lasts that 
Blanchard first showed the wide scope of his copying car- 
riage as duly modified. To form a left-foot last from a 
right-foot last, he caused his pattern and his wooden block 
to revolve in opposite directions. With equal simplicity he 
produced from a single pattern a wide variety of lasts, pro- 
portionately larger and smaller. He employed copying 


wheels differing in size from the feeling wheel, and dif- 
fering proportionately, also, in their lengths of path. A 
Blanchard lathe thus equipped attracted much attention at 
the Universal Exposition of 1857 in Paris, as it executed in 
miniature exquisite reproductions of life-size busts of Na- 
poleon III. and the Empress Eugenie. The French ad- 
mirers of Blanchard recalled, with pride, his descent from 
a Huguenot of Rochelle, who, with many another refugee, 
brought rare skill to his new home in America. 

Blanchard did not always stay indoors at his work. He 
was a pioneer in adapting steam to transportation by land 
and water. In 1825 he built in Springfield a steam vehicle 
which sped along its highways at a rattling pace, a fore- 
runner of the motor-cars of to-day. It was controlled with 
ease, turned sharp corners without strain, went forward or 
backward as .readily as a horse, and its power could be 
doubled when a hill was to be climbed. Blanchard clearly 
foresaw a great future for railways, with their tracks so 
much less resistant than roadways. He exerted himself to 
form a joint-stock company to build a railroad across Massa- 
chusetts, submitting his plans, with a model steam carriage, 
to the State Legislature. On January 23, 1826, its com- 
mittee reported favorably, but when Blanchard sought to 
enlist capital, none was forthcoming. He then proceeded to 
Albany, where he explained his project to Governor Clin- 
ton, suggesting that the Empire State should build a com- 
prehensive railroad system, with a line from Albany to 
Schenectady as its first link. Governor Clinton heard 
Blanchard with his accustomed courtesy, and told him that 
his proposal came too soon after the exhausting demands 
for the Erie Canal. For that great artery the Governor had 
wrought valiantly for many years. Blanchard was now con- 
vinced that the time was not ripe for railroads, and he left 
their advocacy to other promoters, whose success was not 
long delayed. While railroading had been in his thoughts, 


he sketched a variety of switches and the like, which were 
duly adopted when locomotives began their transformation 
of America. 

While railroads had remained merely in the stage of 
discussion, steamboats had for years been plying with 
profit the Hudson, the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi. 
Blanchard did all that lay in his power to confer a like 
boon on the Connecticut River. In 1826, the principal busi- 
ness men of Hartford decided to improve the navigation of 
that stream flowing by their city. Accordingly a canal was 
built to overcome Enfield Falls, a few miles distant, so 
that a free channel was opened all the way to Springfield. 
For the traffic thus offered, Blanchard built the Vermont, 
the Massachusetts, and other steamers. Of course, he be- 
stowed original features upon them all. In the Massa- 
chusetts he employed two steam engines, so coupled as to 
avoid dead centers at the crank pin. He boldly employed 
steam at a pressure of 500 pounds to the square inch, aware 
of the economy attending its use. Of course, to withstand 
a pressure so extreme he was restricted to boilers of small 
size. But he found leaks to be unavoidable, and lubrication 
so difficult at the great heat involved that his experiment 
was abandoned. Even to-day it would be repeated with 
hesitation. In 1830, Blanchard designed the steamer Al- 
legheny, to ply between Pittsburgh and Olean Point, 300 
miles apart. In this stretch of water there were falls 
and rapids having a total extent of 600 feet. 

In building the hulls of his steamers, Blanchard found 
the knee timbers, for which he paid a high price, to be 
sometimes weak and faulty. This led him to examine 
processes for steaming timbers, and then bending them into 
forms needed in shipbuilding. He noticed that usually these 
products were badly cracked and splintered on their outer 
curves. As the result of many experiments, he designed a 
machine which bent steamed timbers quite free from frac- 



ture. Its curved links grasped a stick, while a stout screw 
firmly pressed the wood against its container. To stretch 
the fibers of wood, as Blanchard's predecessors had done, 
was to weaken them ; he employed only compression, which 


does little harm or none at all. His machine proved to 
be by far the most lucrative of Blanchard's inventions. 
For its applications to ship timbers he received $150,000. It 
also profitably turned out handles for plows and other farm 


tools, it curved felloes for wheels, it provided slates and 
pictures with frames much stronger than those made of 
straight and jointed wood. In this last-mentioned field, small 
as it seemed, the inventor reaped a harvest which aston- 
ished him. A manufacturer of school slates came from 
Philadelphia one day, and, showing Blanchard an old- 
fashioned square slate, asked him if he could furnish a 
frame that would not break apart when let fall to the 
ground. Blanchard took the slate, chipped off the corners 
so as to leave it an oval, and then steamed and bent around 
it an oak strip fastened by an iron loop. The slatemaker 
let this frame fall to the floor repeatedly, and, finding 'it 
none the worse, asked Blanchard his terms for the right 
to manufacture such a frame for slates. " Two thousand 
dollars," said the inventor. " Five hundred is enough," re- 
plied the Pennsylvanian. " Give me five per cent, royalty 
on your sales," said Blanchard. His visitor consented, with 
the result that he paid Blanchard more than two thousand 
dollars during the first year of their contract. 

Blanchard's income from his patents was now ample, and 
he removed to Boston. Here, during the remainder of his 
life, a considerable part of his time was devoted to acting 
as an expert in patent cases. His intuitive perceptions as a 
mechanic, his wide and varied experience in machine shops, 
and his sterling honesty gave unimpeachable value to his 
judgments. He died in Boston April 16, 1864, at the age 
of seventy-six. 

[From a painting by himself, using a mirror 
owner, G. William Rasch, of Brooklyn. 
Museum of the Hrooklvn Tnsti 

By permission of the 
his portrait is exhibited at the 
le of Arts ziml Sripnops.l 


OF all the services of electricity the chief is its carriage 
of our words with the speed of light. Seventy years ago 
so few could see that this great boon lay within easy grasp, 
that the pioneers of telegraphy had to fight many a hard 
battle before they came to victory. And, quite without 
knowing it, they were breaking ground for other conquests 
as decisive as their ow r n. Morse and his lieutenants sought 
to convey an electric current forty, seventy, or a hundred 
miles, with so little loss by the way that, at its journey's 
end, it should excite an electro-magnet, and attract an arma- 
ture of an ounce or two. They had to find out what wire 
to use, how to place it, how to keep its current from leaking 
away. They had to learn what electrical intensities are best 
for long or for short lines; and how properly to enwrap 
the tell-tale cores of their electro-magnets. They accom- 
plished nothing less, therefore, than the long-distance trans- 
mission of electricity, and of the motive-power into which 
it may be instantly converted. They dealt, to be sure, with 
only trifling volumes of current, but all the while they were 
making straight the paths for the modern engineers who 
send millions of horse-power from Niagara, and from other 
cataracts the world over, to chains of motors, lamps, and 
furnaces which may be as far off as three hundred miles. 
These inestimable services had their unregarded beginning 
as an aid to telegraphy almost at its birth. Professor Charles 
Graf ton Page in 1838 designed a simple dynamo as a rival 
to voltaic batteries : on Christmas Day, 1844, it operated 
a Morse circuit of eighty miles. 

In American telegraphy, Morse is the commanding figure. 
Artist that he was, first and always, he placed pencils in 



electric fingers in such wise that, instead of waving idly in 
the air, they might record their signals simply and indelibly. 
With a tenacity never for a moment relaxed, with the ad- 
dress and tact of a born diplomatist, he sought information 
from investigators, enlisted inventive skill superior to his 
own, secured votes from lawmakers, and borrowed capital 
with nothing in pledge but his own fervid hopes. He owed 
much, nearly everything, indeed, to a succession of discov- 
erers all the way from Galvani to Henry. But, however 
large his debt to these devisers, and to their interpreter, 
Professor Leonard D. Gale ; however much his first instru- 
ments were transmuted by his partner, Alfred Vail ; it was 
Morse who was captain of the ship, who planned its voyage, 
engaged its crew, filled its treasury, and, after many a 
storm, anchored in port at last. For this mastery of men 
and events he was equipped by nature and nurture. To 
begin with, he was well born. His father, the Rev. Jedidiah 
Morse, was a man of force and initiative, who counted 
Daniel Webster among his admiring friends, and with good 
reason. Before he was licensed as a clergyman, and while 
a teacher in New Haven, he began writing his " American 
Geography," which, duly completed, won wide acceptance 
throughout the Union. He was settled as pastor of the 
First Congregational Church in Charlestown, Massa- 
chusetts, on April 30, 1789, the day of Washington's in- 
auguration in New York as President of the United States. 
Rev. Dr. Morse served his parish all the more fruitfully 
because he looked beyond its bounds. He took part in 
founding the Theological Seminary at Andover, the Amer- 
ican Board of Foreign Missions, the American Bible So- 
ciety, and the American Tract Society. A fortnight after 
his installation he married Elizabeth Ann Breese, a grand- 
daughter of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, who became 
president of the College of New Jersey, now Princeton 


On April 27, 1791, in a house at the foot of Breed's 
Hill, in Charlestown, was born his famous son, who, to 
recall eminent forbears, was baptized Samuel Finley Breese. 
Rev. Dr. Morse, like the shepherd whom Chaucer praised, 
recommended the narrow way by walking therein himself. 
Thanks to his example and loving discipline, his son was 
ever a man of profound religious convictions. As one 
reads his intimate letters, it is plain that a slight jolt in his 
kaleidoscope would have patterned him as a minister of the 
Gospel, and not as a painter and an inventor. His bent 
toward art declared itself early. When four years of age, 
he attended a school kept by Old Ma'am Rand, a cripple 
unable to leave her chair. Young Samuel outlined her 
features in a style so unflattering that he received more 
than one rebuke from her long rattan. When seven years 
old, he was sent to a preparatory school in Andover, where 
he was fitted for Phillips Academy, near by. Thence, after 
a brief sojourn at home, he proceeded to Yale College, en- 
tering at sixteen. Thither, within a year or two, he was 
followed by his brothers, Sidney and Richard. Thus gen- 
erously did their father, with a comparatively small income, 
provide his children with thorough education at his own 
alma mater. At that time the president of Yale College 
was Timothy Dwight, a teacher of national fame. When 
failing sight obliged him to have assistants at his desk, he 
chose the three young Morses. His molding influence, 
strong upon every student under his care, was all the 
stronger with the trio for an intimacy which became 

Samuel Morse's knack in seizing a portrait was mean- 
time improving by constant practice. To eke out his 
modest expenses, he painted miniatures at five dollars, and 
drew profiles at a dollar. He began to feel that his skill 
and joy at the easel were pointing to his career, and he 
earnestly toiled for a proficiency which might win his 


father's concurrence in his desire to become an artist. 
And meanwhile, day by day, term by term, he received 
the best scientific instruction that any American college 
could then bestow. As part of his course, he learned all 
that was then known about electricity; and just because he 
filled and connected voltaic cells, charged and discharged 
Leyden jars, noted the vibration of compass needles, his 
brain was planted with seeds which more than twenty years 
afterward germinated in his recording telegraph. Much, 
evidently, may turn upon an all-round appeal to a student's 
intelligence, upon bringing to his view the whole circle of 
human activity. In a golden hour a latent and unsuspected 
faculty may be thus awakened, and nourished, before the 
brief springtime of responsiveness has passed forever. 
Morse, let us bear in mind, was not a probable man to be 
the Columbus of American telegraphy. His natural bent 
was strongly toward art; he had but moderate skill as a 
mechanic; his inventive powers were not remarkable; he 
was no chemist ; neither had he the talent nor the ambition 
of a researcher. Yet, in the mind of this man, and in the 
mind of nobody else, was kindled the spark which, all in 
good time, gave the telegraph to America. Who was the 
teacher at Yale, who, by experiment and interpretation, so 
fruitfully impressed this young student? Jeremiah Day, 
then professor of physics, who, a few years later, rose to the 
presidency of his university, a post which he filled with 
distinction. How he sowed the good seed in Morse's 
mind is told in a note from Morse to his father, written on 
March 8, 1809 : 

" Mr. Day's lectures are very interesting, they are upon 
electricity. He has given us some very fine experiments, 
the whole class, taking hold of hands, formed the circuit of 
communication, and we all received the shock at the same 
moment. I never took the electric shock before ; it felt as 
if some person had struck me a slight blow across the arms. 


Mr. Day has given us two lectures on this subject, and I be- 
lieve there are two more remaining. I will give you some 
account of them as soon as they are delivered, which will 
probably be in the course of this week." 

Morse was also much indebted to Professor Benjamin 
Silliman, who then taught chemistry at Yale, and who em- 
ployed in his experiments Volta's pile and crown of cups, 
and a Cruikshanks' battery. Experiments other than elec- 
trical at times exercised the ingenuity of Morse, and of his 
brothers as well. One day they built a fire-balloon, and sent 
it skyward. On its second voyage it lurched against the 
middle college building, took fire, and was soon reduced 
to ashes. But this sort of thing was to Morse play rather 
than work. He felt an impulse ever growing stronger 
toward art. On July 22, 1810, he wrote to his parents : 

" I am now released from college, and am attending to 
painting. As to my choice of a profession, I still think that 
I was made for a painter, and I would be obliged to you to 
make such arrangements with Mr. Allston, for my studying 
with him, as you shall think expedient. I would desire to 
study with him during the winter, and, as he expects to 
return to England in the spring, I should admire to be able 
to go with him, but of this we will talk when we meet at 

His father and mother already had had proof of his abil- 
ity with the brush. He had depicted them both, in a fam- 
ily group, and with decided skill, some time before this at 
college. Just before his graduation, in 1810, he painted 
The Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, with so assured 
a touch that his father was convinced that there was in his 
son the making of an artist. Dr. Morse now consented that 
Samuel should adopt painting as his vocation. It was 
speedily arranged that, as he had suggested, he should 
study with Washington Allston. That famous artist was 


soon to cross from his native America to his studio in 
London. He and Morse sailed on July 13, 1811, on the 
Lydia, from New York for Liverpool. On arriving in 
London, Morse engaged a lodging at 67 Great Titchfield 
Street, and began work at his easel with diligence. One 
morning Allston presented him to Benjamin West, the lead- 
ing American artist of his time, then in the zenith of his 
renown. Morse intended to offer for exhibition at the 
Academy a drawing from a small cast of the Farnese 
Hercules. This he submitted to West. After strict 
scrutiny for some minutes, and much commendation, West 
handed the drawing back to Morse, saying, " Very well, 
sir, very well ; go on and finish it." " It is finished," re- 
plied Morse. " Oh, no," said West ; " look here, and here, 
and here," pointing to many unfinished places which had 
escaped the untutored eye of the young student. No sooner 
were they pointed out, however, than they were felt, and a 
week was devoted to a more careful finishing of the draw- 
ing, until, full of confidence, Morse again presented it to 
West. Praise was warmly accorded, but once again West 
said, " Very well, indeed, sir ; go and finish it." 

" Is it not finished ? " asked Morse, deeply chagrined. 

" Not yet," replied West ; " see you have not marked that 
muscle, nor the articulations of the finger- joints." 

Morse now spent three or four days retouching and im- 
proving his work, resolved, if possible, to have his critic 
say that the drawing was really finished at last. West ac- 
knowledged the drawing to be exceedingly good, " Very 
clever, indeed ;" but he ended up with, " Well, sir, go and 
finish it." 

" I cannot finish it," said Morse almost in despair. 

" Well," said West, " I have tried you long enough. Now, 
sir, you have learned more by this drawing than you would 
have accomplished in double the time by a dozen half- 
finished beginnings. It is not numerous drawings, but the 


character of one, which makes a thorough draughtsman. 
Finish one picture, sir, and you are a painter." 

How well he laid to heart the severe lessons from West 
appears in a letter to his parents, written on September 2O> 


"I have just finished a model in clay of a figure (The 
Dying Hercules), my first attempt at sculpture. Mr. 
Allston is extremely pleased with it; he says it is better 
than all the things I have done since I have been in Eng- 
land put together, and says that I must send a cast of 
it home to you, and that it will convince you that I shall 
make a painter. . . . Mr. West was also extremely de- 
lighted with it. He said it was not merely an academical 
figure, but displayed thought. ... If it is my destiny to 
become GREAT, and worthy of a biographical memoir, my 
biographer will never be able to charge upon my parents 
that bigoted attachment to any individual profession, the 
exercise of which spirit by parents toward their children 
has been the ruin of some of the greatest geniuses. ... I 
hope that one day my success in my profession will reward 
you in some measure for the trouble and inconvenience I 
have so long put you to." 

Morse showed West a cast of this Dying Hercules. West 
called his son Raphael, and, pointing to the figure, said, 
" Look there, sir ; I have always told you that any painter 
can make a sculptor." The picture painted from this figure 
Morse sent to the Academy Exhibition. His pains in its 
production were richly rewarded. To the day of his death 
he treasured a copy of The British Press of May 4, 1813, in 
which his picture is declared to be among the nine best 
paintings in a gallery of a thousand, which included can- 
vases by Turner, Northcote, Lawrence, and Wilkie. This 
picture is now in the Art Museum of Yale University. His 
plaster model, furthermore, won a gold medal at the Ex- 
hibition of the Society of Arts. Both the model and a 
cast from it disappeared and left no trace behind. Twenty- 


five years afterward Morse came upon the cast in the Cap- 
itol at Washington. One day, in 1838, he was installing his 
telegraph in an upper room there. To locate his wires he 
descended to a vault which had long been closed. His 
quick eye was attracted by something white glimmering in 
the darkness. It was the cast of his Dying Hercules; it had 
been given to the architect of the Capitol, who had laid it 
aside and forgotten all about it. 

While Morse was in London, the United States and 
England were at war. It testified to the courtesy and savoir 
faire of Morse, his unfailing characteristics through life, 
that he was everywhere received with hospitality and kind- 
ness. His illustrious compatriot, Benjamin West, suffered 
no cooling in the friendship which had long bound him to 
King George Third. In proof he related to Morse : 

" While the King was on a visit to me, news was brought 
of an important victory over the rebels. Not finding him at 
the palace, the messenger immediately traced him to my 
studio, and communicated the intelligence. 

" The messenger then said to me : 

" ' Are you not gratified at the success of his Majesty's 
troops ? ' 

" ' No/ I replied: ' I can never rejoice in the misfortunes 
of my countrymen.' 

" ' Right,' said the King, rising and placing his hand 
approvingly on my shoulder. ' If you did, you would not 
long be a fit subject for any government.' ' 

One day Morse paid West a visit whilst he was painting 
his canvas of " Christ Rejected." West carefully exam- 
ined Morse's hands, and remarking their delicacy, he said : 
" Let me tie you with this cord and take that place while 
I paint in the hands of the Saviour." When he released 
the young artist, West said: "You may now say, if you 
please, that you had a hand in this picture." 

West was not the only man of eminence whom Morse 
met during this long stay in London. He heard more than 


one monologue from Coleridge, and was a delighted junior 
in the circle which gathered around Rogers, the banker- 
poet. Wordsworth and Crabbe, also, he met. Of the great 
artists of that era he saw something of Fuseli and North- 
cote, Turner, Flaxman, and Sir Thomas Lawrence. At 
Yale he had learned quite as much from his fellow-students 
as from his professors. In London he was as gainfully in- 
structed by young artists, like himself, as by the formal 
precepts of Allston, West, and their venerable compeers. 
From youngsters of the brush he heard criticism and 
comment without retouching or reserve. And as he 
went from one studio to another as a welcome visitor, 
he saw what patience and fidelity go to the making of 
every good picture, from the first outline to the final var- 

Of his younger associates the most notable was his chum 
and room-mate, Charles Robert Leslie, three years his 
junior, born in England of American parents. Leslie was 
a warm-hearted youth, of decided talent and unquenchable 
enthusiasm. His portrait, in Spanish costume, was the first 
that Morse painted in London; Leslie returning the com- 
pliment by limning his friend as a Highlander. 

For a few months, in 1833, Leslie taught drawing at 
West Point, but he found the Military Academy a poor 
exchange for London, and thither he returned for good 
and all, rising to popularity as a painter of genre and his- 
torical pieces. He wrote an admirable life of his friend 
Constable, a handbook for young artists packed with solid 
sense and wise counsel, and an autobiography published 
after his death, which took place in 1859. 

Men of the world are apt to prefer the company of 
artists, such as Morse now became, to any other. Painters 
see much of nature and human nature : they observe with 
the adhesive gaze of men storing impressions for use. 
Every portrait painter of mark cultivates the sympathy 


which puts a nervous or impatient sitter at ease, that he 
may bring out a revealing glance of curiosity, of introspec- 
tion, of self-approval: and this sympathy remains with the 
artist when he lays down his palette. Lessons not so im- 
portant, but still valuable enough, were learned by our young 
student of art : he was quietly advancing in nicety and sure- 
ness of touch, both with plastic clay and with the brush. 
Thus it came about that, by-and-by, he could fashion his 
telegraphic recorder with his own hands, in happy inde- 
pendence of model-makers. It is much when an inventor 
has this measure of the builder in him : in the very act of 
making his model, its creator feels that here and there 
he can better its design or construction. And thus the query 
suggests itself, What have artists and inventors in com- 
mon? Mainly breadth and vividness of imagination. Da 
Vinci devised canal-locks and painted Mona Lisa, for many 
years one of the glories of the Louvre. Michael Angelo, at 
twenty-one, carved his Pieta; in mature life he planned, as 
a roof for that Picta, the dome of Saint Peter's. In less 
exalted ranks of this hierarchy of artist-inventors we may 
remark Fulton and Daguerre, Nasmyth and Alvan Clark. 
These men were craftsmen as well as artists ; in both fields 
they passed from old to new, from inheritance to discov- 
ery. They divined what to other men was inscrutable : then 
they gave it form with pencil or brush, with chisel or file. 
They could descry the approach of dawn while to their 
neighbors darkness still prevailed. 

To imagination Morse joined other gifts. He had a fair 
measure of mechanical ingenuity. His first telegraphic 
register, though clumsy, revealed the combining talent of 
a real inventor. And then he was fortunate in having a 
fresh eye, in viewing electrical experiments from outside the 
rut of professional treadmills. In New Haven and New 
York, in Albany and Princeton, hundreds of students had 
worked with electrical apparatus, some of it better than 


any that had fallen in Morse's way. Yet he was the only 
one of them all to bid electricity write its messages, throb 
by throb, with pencil or pen. Remote, indeed, was his easel 
from machine shops and chemical laboratories. That very 
remoteness, while it kept him ignorant of many important 
advances in knowledge, in all likelihood gave him a truer 
perspective of the distant possibilities of science than if he 
had been an engineer or a chemist. 

In the course of his fifth year abroad, Morse deemed his 
studies to be fairly closed. On August 21, 1815, he sailed 
from Liverpool for Boston on the Ceres. In Boston, four 
miles from his native Charlestown, he promptly opened a 
studio. By way of introduction he exhibited The Judg- 
ment of Jupiter, for which the public encouraged him with 
its voice and with nothing else. He received no offer for 
his picture, and no sitter favored him with a call. With 
no work for his brush, his mind reverted to the mechanical 
contrivances which had often suggested themselves to his 
ingenuity. He devised, with the aid of his brother Sidney, 
an improved pump, and adapted it to fire engines. This 
pump was commended by that acute critic, Eli Whitney, in- 
ventor of the cotton gin. But, alas! like the portraits 
Morse stood ready to paint, it was not in demand. What 
resource could he fall back upon? Nothing but touring 
from town to town with his easel in quest of patrons. In 
the autumn of 1816, and the following winter, he traveled 
through New Hampshire and Vermont. Let us see how he 
fared. From Concord, on August 16, he wrote to his 
parents : 

" I am still here I have painted t" T o portraits at fifteen 
dollars each, and have two more engaged, and many more 
talked of. I think I shall get along well. I believe I could 
make an independent fortune in a few years if I devoted my- 
self exclusively to portraits, so great is the desire for por- 
traits in the different country towns." 


During the next month he met at a party Miss Lucretia 
Pickering Walker, the beautiful and accomplished daughter 
of Charles Walker, a leading citizen of Concord. It was 
a case of love at first sight, with an early betrothal. Morse 
continued his tours, making friends wherever he went, and 
earning fair prices for his work. At length he felt war- 
ranted in assuming the responsibilities of matrimony, which, 
for two years, he had cherished in contemplation. On Oc- 
tober i, 1818, he was married to Miss Walker at Concord. 
Their union was of happiness unalloyed : to the end of her 
days Morse and his wife were lovers. The one supreme 
sorrow of his life was the early death of his devoted 

He had now entered upon the checkered career of an 
artist whose work was, at times, in pressing demand, with 
long intervals of idleness and the imminence of sheer want. 
In this regard, as in every other, his lot was one of sun- 
shine just after his wedding at Concord. When he had 
reaped the Northern field pretty thoroughly, he went, at a 
friend's invitation, to Charleston, where he met with cheer- 
ing success. For the Common Council of Charleston, he 
painted a portrait of President James Monroe. With his 
wonted public spirit, he took pant in founding the South 
Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, of which a friend, Joel R. 
Poinsett, was chosen to be president. Every day that Morse 
remained in Charleston increased his vogue. In a few 
weeks he had listed one hundred and fifty patrons at sixty 
dollars each. He drew a good many portraits with the 
understanding that they were to be completed in the North, 
whither he must soon return to rejoin his wife. He now 
conceived a picture of the House of Representatives at 
Washington, in which the portraits of seventy leading mem- 
bers should appear. He hoped that this work might lead 
him from simple portraiture to historical painting, for which 
he felt that he had talent. He executed his large canvas 


in the autumn of 1822, and disappointment was again his 
portion. Nobody wanted it, although it was exhibited far 
and wide, and much admired. After many vicissitudes, the 
picture came into the hands of the late Daniel Huntington, 
of New York, whose gallery it long adorned. It is now in 
the Corcoran Art Gallery at Washington. 

Morse's skill as an artist and as a mechanic came into play 
during the summer of 1823, when he devised a sculpturing 
machine in New Haven. In constructing and operating this 
machine he was aided by Mr. Auger, who carved busts of 
Apollo and other statuary, with no particular profit to Morse 
or himself. On August 27, 1823, Morse wrote to his wife : 

" The more I think of making a push at New York as a 
permanent place of residence in my profession, the more 
proper it seems that it should be at once. New York does 
not yet feel the influx of wealth from the Western Canals, 
but in a year or two she will feel it, and it will be ad- 
vantageous to me to be previously identified among her citi- 
zens as a painter. It requires some little time to become 
renowned in such a city." 

During the ensuing month Morse took up his residence 
in New York, and wrote to his wife : 

" I have obtained a place to board at friend Coolidge's at 
$2.25 per week, and have taken for my studio a fine room in 
Broadway [No. 96], on the corner of Pine Street, opposite 
Trinity Churchyard, for $6.50 a week, fifty cents less than I 
expected to pay. . . ." 

In this studio the first portrait he painted was that of 
Chancellor Kent, who proved to be a nervous and fidgety 
subject. Morse would have been glad of other sitters, just 
as troublesome. But the Chancellor was not followed up- 
stairs by any other patron, and on December 21, 1823, with 
Christmas at hand, Morse wrote to his wife in anything but 
a festal key : 


" My cash is almost gone, and I begin to feel some anxiety 
and perplexity to know what to do. ... I have thought of 
various plans, but which to decide upon I am completely at 
a loss, nor can I decide until I hear definitely from Wash- 
ington in regard to my Mexico expedition. I wrote to Gen- 
eral Van Rensselaer, Mr. Poinsett, and Colonel Hayne, of 
the Senate, applying for some situation in the legation soon 
to be sent to Mexico." 

He was duly appointed attache. But Mr. Edwards, who 
was to have been Minister to Mexico, and Morse's chief, 
through a quarrel with the powers that were, did not en- 
ter on his mission, and once more the poor artist knew 
the bitterness of balked hopes. But, after much cloudy 
weather, Morse was to enjoy a little sunshine. He was com- 
missioned by the City of New York to paint a portrait of 
Lafayette. He proceeded to Washington forthwith, to find 
Lafayette as agreeable in a studio as in a drawing-room. 
While he was painting this picture, he received word that 
on February 8, 1825, his wife had suddenly died. This 
blow was almost more than Morse could bear. He and 
his wife had been devotedly attached to one another, and 
that she should pass away in his absence added pang to pang. 
An aggravation of his grief was the six days and nights' 
constant travel which then divided Washington from New 
Haven. To-day the journey may be accomplished in less 
than seven hours. On his return to Washington, utterly 
heartbroken, Morse finished his portrait of Lafayette, which 
hangs in the City Hall of New York. 

He now resumed work in his Broadway studio, and al- 
though his canvases commended themselves to the fraternity 
of artists, he painted too few of them to yield him a living. 
Of his high standing with his brethren of the brush there 
was soon unmistakable proof. Colonel Trumbull, the his- 
torical painter, was then president of the American Academy 
of Arts, the one society of artists in New York. He was 


accused of inhospitality to young students, and on other 
grounds he was generally disliked. In their discontent, a 
group of painters and sculptors proposed to found a Na- 
tional Academy of the Fine Arts of Design. Accordingly, 
on January 15, 1826, fifteen artists were chosen by ballot 
as foundation members, with Morse as president, a post 
he held until 1845, with honor to himself, with usefulness 
both to his associates and the public. The Academy, its 
name shortened, still flourishes in New York, with art- 
classes much expanded and strengthened in the recent years 
of its history. 

While Morse was at work with his wonted industry, there 
came to him bad news from New Haven. His father, to 
whom in every extremity he could turn for sympathy and 
aid, was dying. On June 9, 1826, the Rev. Dr. Morse ex- 
pired in his sixty-fourth year. With the children of his son 
Samuel, he had resided in New Haven for six years. In 
1823, three years before their father died, Samuel's brothers, 
Sidney and Richard, removed to New York, and established 
The Observer, a family journal of a religious character. 
After a severe struggle their newspaper became profitable, 
thanks to their energy and ability. 

Samuel Morse, in his devotion to art, had not lost sight of 
the amazing developments in science of each passing year. 
In 1820, during a brief stay in New Haven, he often visited 
the laboratory of Professor Silliman, which had recently 
acquired from Dr. Hare, of Philadelphia, a galvanic calori- 
motor and his deflagrator for the combustion of metals. 
But it was not in producing high temperatures that Morse 
was to use electricity. The path of his interests and of his 
ultimate triumph was cleared and broadened when, seven 
years later, in 1827, he attended in New York a course of 
lectures by Professor James Freeman Dana, of Columbia 
College. Now came warmth and light to the seeds long ago 
planted in his mind at Yale. He observed with wonder how 


a straight wire conveying electricity deflected a nearby com- 
pass needle, an effect noticed first by Romagnesi at Trent in 
1802, and independently remarked by Oersted in 1819, at 
Copenhagen. He saw how, following an experiment de- 
vised by Professor Schweigger, of Halle, this wire, when 
bent as a ring, deflected the needle much more than before. 
But what particularly impressed him was an electro-magnet 
invented, in 1825, by William Sturgeon, of Woolwich, near 
London. Here was a strip of soft iron, curved as a horse- 
shoe, around which were coiled a few feet of copper wire. 
By way of insulation the iron had received a coat of varnish. 
When an electric current passed through this wire, at once 
the iron became magnetic, only to lose its magnetism the 
instant that the current was cut off. This action, so much 
more positive and energetic than the swaying of a compass 
needle, rooted itself deeply in Morse's brooding mind. It 
was this clutching effect that he chose, and most wisely, for 
the register he eventually designed. Other inventors, less 
sound in judgment, preferred a vibrating needle as their 
agent, and force of habit saddles that choice upon their 
army of successors. 

But Morse's interest in electrical progress at this time 
was but an incident in a life devoted to art: he turned to 
the laboratory for the refreshing which comes with a 
change of outlook. His practice as a painter had steadily 
grown, until now he was offered more commissions than he 
could execute. Amid this pressure of toil, he prepared and 
delivered a series of discourses on the fine arts. These 
were among the first lectures on art ever heard in America. 
Their quality widened his circle of friends, and bore fruit 
in a professorship five years afterward. Yet for all his 
goodly income as an artist, Morse, now in his thirty-ninth 
year, was dissatisfied with his pictures. He resolved to visit 
Italy, there, at leisure, to become familiar with the master- 
pieces of all time, to refine his taste, and improve his tech- 



nique. A score of his friends at once subscribed $2,800 
for canvases which he was to paint while abroad, either as 
copies or original works. He sailed from New York on 
November 8, 1829, landing in Liverpool twenty-six days 


thereafter. In England he met Leslie and other intimates 
of his youth, and, proceeding through France, took his 
way to the Italian frontier. Near Lyons, on his southward 
course, he saw the waving arms of a Chappe semaphore, 


such as he was to banish from the world. On February 20 
he found himself in Rome: without losing a day he began 
to copy Raphael's School of Athens for Robert Donaldson, 
of New York. In the Vatican and other great galleries 
of Italy, he copied with industry, learning many a golden 
lesson as he plied the brush. William Dunlap, in his " His- 
tory of the Arts in America," says : 

" Mr. Morse has told me that he formed a theory for the 
distribution of colors in a picture many years since, when 
standing before a picture by Paul Veronese, which has been 
confirmed by all his subsequent studies of the works of the 
great masters. This picture is now in the National Gallery, 
London. He saw in it that the highest light was cold; the 
mass of light, warm ; the middle tint, cool ; the shadow, 
negative; the reflections, hot. He says that he has tried 
this theory by placing a white ball in a box, lined with 
white, and convinced himself that the system of Paul 
Veronese is the order of nature. Balls of orange, or of 
blue, so placed, give the same relative result. The high 
light of the ball is uniformly cold in comparison with the 
local color of the ball. 

" ' I have observed in a picture by Rubens/ said Morse, 
' that it had a foxy tone, and, on examination, I found that 
the shadow (which, according to my theory, ought to be 
negative) was hot Whenever I found this to be the case, I 
found the picture foxy.' On one occasion his friend Allston 
said to him, while standing before an unfinished painting, 
' I have painted that piece of drapery of every color, and it 
will not harmonize with the rest of the picture/ Morse 
found the drapery belonged to the mass of light, and said, 
' According to my theory, it must be warm ; paint it flesh- 
color.' ' What do you mean by your theory ? ' Morse ex- 
plained it. Allston immediately said : 'It is so ; it is in 
nature / and has since said, ' Your theory has saved me 
many an hour's labor.' ' 

Morse, during his sojourn in Italy, formed many delight- 
ful friendships. His desire to please and help others always 
made others desire to please and help him. He became in- 


timate with the great Danish sculptor, Thorwaldsen, of 
whom he painted a speaking likeness. James Fenimore 
Cooper was then in Italy : no sooner did the novelist and 
the artist meet than an attachment began, only to end with 
Cooper's life. Morse owed to his father a close intimacy 
with Baron Von Humboldt, who had corresponded with the 
author of the " American Geography." Sometimes the 
great explorer would seat himself beside Morse as he 
painted at the Louvre, and discourse with the utmost charm 
from his vast store of observation and thought. During a 
later visit to Paris, and afterward at Potsdam, the two 
friends, so far apart in their labors, and, perhaps, for that 
very reason, fraternized with enthusiasm. 

His portfolios filled, his commissions for pictures duly 
despatched, Morse deemed his post-graduate course at an 
end. On October i, 1832, he embarked at Havre for New 
York on the Sully, for the most memorable voyage of his 
life. Soon after the shores of France had receded from 
view, the talk at dinner turned on electro-magnetism. Dr. 
Charles T. Jackson, of Boston, a discoverer of anesthesia, 
who sat near Morse, spoke of the length of wire in the coil 
of an electro-magnet, and a neighbor asked, " Is the velocity 
of electricity reduced by the length of its conducting wire? " 
Jackson replied that electricity passes instantaneously over 
any known length of wire. He cited Franklin's experi- 
ments with several miles of wire, in which no appreciable 
time elapsed between a touch at one end and a spark at the 
other. Then Morse uttered the conviction which deter- 
mined his life ever after: "If the presence of electricity can 
be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason 
why intelligence may not be transmitted instantaneously by 

The talk proceeded, but Morse was now silent. So far 
as he knew, nobody else had ever entertained a project for 
electrical telegraphy. Of what Schilling, Gauss, and 


Weber had accomplished in needle telegraphy in Germany, 
he was wholly ignorant. Nor had news reached him of the 
still more striking experiments of Joseph Henry, at Albany, 
a few months prior. Here was a remarkable instance of 
how an inventor may independently devise a scheme long 
before embodied in apparatus he, knows nothing about. 
In truth, the times were ripe for practical telegraphy. The 
electro-magnet of Sturgeon, the galvanometer of Schweig- 
ger, had enabled several ingenious men, each advancing in 
a path of his own, to cross, at last, the threshold of electrical 
communication. If this could take place in Germany, 
France, England, and America, why not also on the bosom 
of the Atlantic ? The feat was feasible wherever there were 
brains to take newly created tools and build with them, 
wherever there was imagination to pass from the known 
to the beyond. Morse had one of the unfailing marks of 
greatness. His confidence in himself and in his purposes 
could not be shaken. Many a stubborn obstacle might 
confront him. He would overcome it. As his ship neared 
Sandy Hook he said to her commander, Captain Pell: 
" Well, Captain, should you hear of the telegraph one of 
these days, as the wonder of the world, remember the dis- 
covery was made on the good ship Sully." 

Morse had unconsciously prepared himself, in more ways 
than one, for the task he now took up with a stout heart. 
His native ingenuity had been exercised in constructing 
his pump and his sculpturing machine. From boyhood he 
had been drawing and sketching, so that, as the Sully 
bowled along toward New York, he drew rapidly and pre- 
cisely his plans for a telegraph. These plans, as then out- 
lined, are preserved in the National Museum at Washington. 
All his life his imagination had swept broad horizons, and 
he foresaw what mankind would reap by the instantaneous 
conveying of intelligence : the prospect spurred him day and 
night, and became a sheer obsession. On the practical side 


of his project, he was happy, as no rival inventor was happy, 
in choosing as his servant the electro-magnet, with its force- 
ful grasp. 

On his return to New York Morse found, to his deep 
chagrin, that he had lost his place in its procession of 
artists. In his absence of three years he had dropped 
from the memory of many acquaintances from whom, had he 
remained at home, patrons would undoubtedly have been 
recruited. So far, therefore, from having means to carry 
out telegraphic experiments, he had hardly cash enough to 
pay his landlord and grocer. His commissions for por- 
traits were so few that he was obliged to give lessons. 
Only rigid economy enabled him to keep together body and 
soul. His room, which served as a studio, workshop, and 
dormitory, was on the fifth floor of a building on the north- 
east corner of Beekman and Nassau Streets. In succession 
to that structure stands the present Morse Building. Near 
the window stood a lathe on which he turned out the brass 
apparatus which he devised and slowly improved. His diet 
was mainly tea of his own brewing and crackers. From 
Nassau Street he removed to University Place, but with no 
improvement of income. General Strother, of Virginia, a 
well-known contributor to magazines as " Porte Crayon," 
thus sketched Morse at this crisis in his fortunes : 

" I engaged to become Morse's pupil, and subsequently 
went to New York, and found him in a room in University 
Place. He had three other pupils, and I soon found that 
our professor had very little patronage. I paid my fifty 
dollars for one quarter's instruction. Morse was a faith- 
ful teacher, and took as much interest in our progress as 
more, indeed, than we did ourselves. But he was very 
poor. I remember that, when my second quarter's pay was 
due, my remittance did not come as expected, and one day 
the professor came in, and said, courteously : ' Well, 
Strother, my boy, how are we off for money? ' 

" ' Why, professor/ I answered, * I am sorry to say I 


have been disappointed; but I expect a remittance next 

' Next week/ he repeated sadly ; ' I shall be dead by that 

"'Dead, sir?' 

'.Yes, dead by starvation/ 
" I was distressed and astonished. I said hurriedly : 

' Would ten dollars be of any service ? ' 
" ' Ten dollars would save my life ; that is all it would 

" I paid the money, all that I had, and we dined together. 
It was a modest meal, but good, and, after he had finished, 
he said : 

' This is my first meal for twenty- four hours. Strother, 
don't be an artist. It means beggary. Your life depends 
upon people who know nothing of your art, and care nothing 
for you. A housedog lives better, and the very sensitive- 
ness that stimulates an artist to work, keeps him alive to 
suffering/ J: 

Morse, a man with the utmost dread of debt, never made 
known his distress to friends who would gladly have come 
to his aid. And he felt comfort, dire though his straits 
might be, in the high esteem accorded him by his fellow- 
artists. As President of the Academy of Design, he ex- 
erted an influence as wide as the Union, and his methods 
were copied by a score of artists more successful than him- 
self. Of the distinction he had won as a painter, signal 
proof was at hand, to be followed by grievous disappoint- 
ment. As we have already seen, he was ambitious to paint 
historical canvases, such as were now required for the ro- 
tunda of the National Capitol. A Congressional committee 
was authorized to appoint artists to paint these pictures. 
The artists of America urged the selection of Morse, who 
stood second only to Allston, who was not in the running. 
John Quincy Adams, ex-President of the United States, a 
member of the committee, offered a resolution that foreign 
artists be allowed to compete, alleging the incompetency of 


American painters. This gave offense to American artists 
and their friends. A severe reply to Mr. Adams appeared 
in a New York journal from the pen of James Fenimore 
Cooper, who did not sign his letter. Mr. Adams believed 
the writer to be Morse, but Morse had never heard of Mr. 
Adams' affront until he read Cooper's letter. Mr. Adams 
caused Morse's name to be rejected by the committee. To 
the last years of his long life the artist could not recall this 
blow without emotion. And yet the rebuff was a blessing in 
disguise : it transmuted Morse the painter into Morse the 
inventor. Had he set up his easel in the Capitol, it is 
altogether likely that his telegraphic project would have 
faded from his mind. In his present dismay a group of 
friends rallied to his relief and comfort, subscribing $3,000 
for a large historical painting such as his rotunda picture 
would have been. Morse chose as its subject The Signing 
of the First Compact on Board 'the Mayflower. When his 
labors on the telegraph made it impossible to proceed with 
the work, he returned to his friends their subscriptions.* 

Rescue from another quarter was at hand, none too soon. 
In 1835, Morse was appointed professor of the arts of de- 
sign in the New York City University at a fair salary. Be- 
fore his rooms were quite ready he hastily removed from 
his lodgings in Greenwich Lane to the University building. 
This structure, torn down in 1894, was for sixty years a 
picturesque landmark on Washington Square. Morse's 
apartments were on the third floor of the north wing, look- 
ing forth on a broad stretch of grass and trees. Let us 
now hear how his models took form, day by day, under his 
hands in his new home : 

" There," he says, " I immediately commenced, with very 

*In Scrtbner's Magazine, March, 1912, Edward Lind Morse, him- 
self an artist, has an illustrated article on his father's pictures, 
"Samuel F. B. Morse, the Painter." 


limited means, to experiment upon my invention. My first 
instrument was made up of an old picture or canvas frame 
fastened to a table; the wheels of an old wooden clock, 
moved by a weight to carry the paper forward; three 
wooden drums, upon one of which the paper was wound 
and passed over the other two; a wooden pendulum sus- 
pended to the top piece of the picture or stretching-frame, 
and vibrating across the paper as it passes over the center 
wooden drum; a pencil at the lower end of the pendulum, 
in contact with the paper; an electro-magnet fastened to a 
shelf across the picture or stretching-frame, opposite to an 
armature made fast to the pendulum; a type-rule and type 
for breaking the circuit, resting on an endless band, com- 
posed of carpet-binding, which passed over two wooden 
rollers, moved by a wooden crank, and carried forward by 
points projecting from the bottom of the rule downward 
into the carpet-binding ; a lever, with a small weight on the 
upper side, and a tooth projecting downward at one end, 
operated on by the type, and a metallic fork also projecting 
downward over two mercury-cups, and a short circuit of 
wire, embracing the helices of the electro-magnet con- 
nected with the positive and negative poles of the battery, 
and terminating in the mercury-cups. When the instru- 
ment was at rest, the circuit was broken at the mercury- 
cups; as soon as the first type in the type-rule (put in mo- 
tion by turning the wooden crank) came in contact with 
the tooth on the lever, it raised that end of the lever and 
depressed the other, bringing the prongs of the fork down 
into the mercury, thus closing the circuit ; the current pass- 
ing through the helices of the electro-magnet caused the 
pendulum to move and the pencil to make an oblique mark 
upon the paper, which, in the meantime, had been put in 
motion over the wooden drum. The tooth in the lever 
falling into the first two cogs of the types, the circuit was 
broken when the pendulum returned to its former position, 
the pencil making another mark as it returned across the 
paper. Thus, as the lever was alternately raised and de- 
pressed by the points of the type, the pencil passed to and 
fro across the slip of paper passing under it, making a mark 
resembling a succession of Vs. The spaces between the 
types caused the pencil to mark horizontal lines, long or 
short, in proportion to the length of the spaces. 


Fig. i. A, cylinder from which paper was unrolled. B, cylinder 
on which paper received its records. C, cylinder on which paper 
was afterward wound. D, clockwork. E. weight for clockwork. 
F, wooden pendulum pivoted at f. g, pencil carrying a weight. 
k, electro-magnetic armature. I, voltaic cell. 

Fig. 2. MORSE PORT-RULE. L, L, cylinders united by a linen belt. 
M, rule or composing stick. N, standard. O, O, lever suspended 
from N, which, when depressed, plunged into J and K, two cups of 
mercury, completing an electrical circuit. 


" With this apparatus, rude as it was, and completed be- 
fore the first of the year 1836, I was enabled to and did 
mark down telegraphic intelligible signs, and to make and 
did make distinguishable sounds for telegraphing. Having 
arrived at that point, I exhibited it to some of my friends 
early in that year, and, among others, to Professor Leonard 
D. Gale, who was a colleague in the university. I also ex- 
perimented with the chemical power of the electric current 
in 1836, and succeeded in marking my telegraphic signs 
upon paper dipped in turmeric and a solution of the sulphate 
of soda (as well as other salts), by passing the current 
through it. I was soon satisfied, however, that the electro- 
magnetic power was more available for telegraphic pur- 
poses, and possessed many advantages over any other, and 
I turned my thoughts in that direction. Early in 1836 I pro- 
cured forty feet of wire, and, putting it in the circuit, I 
found that my battery of one cup was not sufficient to work 
my instrument. This result suggested to me the probability 
that the magnetism to be obtained from the electric current 
would diminish in proportion as the circuit was lengthened, 
so as to be insufficient for any practical purposes at great 
distances ; and to remove that probable obstacle to my suc- 
cess I conceived the idea of combining two or more cir- 
cuits together in the manner described in my first patent, 
each with an independent battery, making use of the mag- 
netism of the current on the first to close and break the 
second; the second, the third, and so on; this contrivance 
was fully set forth in my patents. My chief concern, there- 
fore, on my subsequent patents, was to ascertain at what 
distance from the battery sufficient magnetism could be ob- 
tained to vibrate a piece of metal, knowing that, if I could 
obtain the least motion at the distance of eight or ten miles, 
the ultimate object was within grasp. A practical mode of 
communicating the impulse of one circuit to another, such 
as that described in my patent of 1840, was matured as 
early as the spring of 1837, and exhibited then to Pro- 
fessor Gale, my confidential friend. 

" Up to the autumn of 1837 my telegraphic apparatus ex- 
isted in so rude a form that I felt a reluctance to have it 
seen. My means were very limited so limited as to pre- 
clude the possibility of constructing an apparatus of such 
mechanical finish as to warrant my success in venturing 


upon its public exhibition. I had no wish to expose to 
ridicule the representative of so many hours of laborious 
thought. Prior to the summer of 1837, at which time Mr. 
Alfred Vail's attention became attracted to my telegraph, I 
depended upon my pencil for my subsistence. Indeed, so 
straitened were my circumstances that, in order to save 
time to carry out my invention and to economize my scanty 
means, I had for some months lodged and eaten in my 
studio, procuring my food in small quantities from some 
grocery, and preparing it myself. To conceal from my 
friends the stinted manner in which I lived, I was in the 
habit of bringing my food to my room in the evenings, and 
this was my mode of life many years." * 

Morse's relay, an indispensable link in his telegraph, was 
an original device of his own. In days of old, when letters 
were borne by a chain of messengers, each of them bore a 
pouch for a stage of his journey. A carrier, at the end 
of his trip, might arrive utterly fagged out, but if he had 
just strength enough to pass his budget to the next man, 
it was enough. In the simple relay due to Morse, elec- 
tricity, by a slight and feeble movement, trigger-fashion, 
opens a new flood-gate of power. An attenuated pulse from 
a distance arrives barely able to lift the armature of an 
electro-magnet. That lifting brings two wires into contact, 
and a second current, of much strength, carries the mes- 
sage for a second long journey ; and so on, indefinitely. To- 
day so powerful are the currents in general use that single 
circuits of a thousand miles are common. Relaying, there- 
fore, is not so important now as at first. 

Professor Joseph Henry, then the acknowledged chief of 
American physicists, whose discoveries had been adopted by 
Morse as essential features of his telegraph, was ready to 

* Taken by the kind permission of D. Appleton and Company, 
New York, from " The Life of S. F. B. Morse" by Samuel I. Prime, 
copyright 1874. Other extracts from the same work follow in this 


answer any questions that the inventor might submit. These 
questions Morse reduced to writing. Duly followed by 
their answers they ran thus : 

1 i ) " Have you any reason to think that magnetism can- 
not be induced in soft iron, at the distance of a hundred 
miles or more, by a single impulse or from a single battery 
apparatus?" "No." 

(2) " Suppose that a horseshoe magnet of soft iron, of a 
given size, receives its maximum of magnetism by a given 
number of coils around it, of wire, or of ribbon, and by a 
given sized battery, or number of batteries, at a given 
distance from the battery, does a succession of magnets in- 
troduced into the circuit diminish the magnetism of each ? " 
" No." 

(3) " Have you ascertained the law which regulates the 
proportion of quantity and intensity from the voltaic bat- 
tery, necessary to overcome the resistance of the wire in 
long distances, in inducing magnetism in soft iron ? " " Ohm 
has determined it." 

(4) " Is it quantity or intensity which has most effect 
in inducing magnetism in soft iron?" "Quantity with 
short, intensity with long, wires." 

Professor Henry wrote to Morse this inspiring word : 

" PRINCETON, February 24, 1842. 

" MY DEAR SIR : I am pleased to learn that you have again 
petitioned Congress, in reference to your telegraph, and I 
most sincerely hope you will succeed in convincing our rep- 
resentatives of the importance of the invention. In this 
you may, perhaps, find some difficulty, since, in the minds 
of many, the electro-magnetic telegraph is associated with 
the various chimerical projects constantly presented to the 
public, and particularly with the schemes so popular a year 
or so ago, for the application of electricity as a motive power 
in the arts. I have asserted, from the first, that all attempts 
of this kind are premature, and made without a proper 
knowledge of scientific principles. The case is, however, en- 
tirely different in regard to the electro-magnetic telegraph. 
Science is now fully ripe for this application, and I have 


not the least doubt, if proper means be afforded, of the per- 
fect success of the invention. 

" The idea of transmitting intelligence to a distance, by 
means of electrical action, has been suggested by various 
persons, from the time of Franklin to the present ; but until 
within the last few years, or since the principal discoveries 
in electro-magnetism, all attempts to reduce it to practice 
were necessarily unsuccessful. The mere suggestion, how- 
ever, of a scheme of this kind is a matter for which little 
credit can be claimed, since it is one which would naturally 
arise in the mind of almost any person familiar with the 
phenomena of electricity; but the bringing it forward at the 
proper moment, when the developments of science are able 
to furnish the means of certain success, and the devising a 
plan for carrying it into practical operation, are the grounds 
of a just claim to scientific reputation as well as to public 

" About the same time with yourself, Professor Wheat- 
stone, of London, and Dr. Steinheil, of Germany, proposed 
plans of the electro-magnetic telegraph : but these differ as 
much from yours as the nature of the common principle 
would well permit; and, unless some essential improve- 
ments have lately been made in these European plans, I 
should prefer the one invented by yourself. 

" With my best wishes for your success, I remain, with 
much esteem, 

" Yours truly, 


Morse's invention of the relay enlisted him a lieutenant 
without whom his projects might have come to naught. 
This was a student at his University, Alfred Vail, a son of 
Judge Stephen Vail, owner of the Speedwell Iron Works, 
at Morristown, New Jersey. In February, 1837, the Secre- 
tary of the United States Treasury, at the request of Con- 
gress, issued a circular of inquiry regarding telegraphs. A 
copy of this circular came into Morse's hands. It spurred 
him to complete his model of the telegraph, and if possible, 
have it accepted by the Government. On September 2, 
1837, Morse exhibited his apparatus, somewhat developed, 


at the University, with Alfred Vail in the audience. Vail 
was convinced that this telegraph, duly improved in form 
and arrangement of parts, would open a new world to 
human power. What was more to the point, he strongly 
desired to be the man who should remake the crude ap- 
paratus which clicked and swayed before him. His wish 
rested on solid ground : he was a mechanic and an inventor 
to the tips of his fingers. But a vital question was un- 
settled: Could electricity impel a message far enough for 
practical success ? When Morse showed him his relay, and 
demonstrated how it lengthened indefinitely a line of com- 
munication, Vail decided to embark in the enterprise, and, 
as he afterward said, " sink or swim with it." He per- 
suaded his father to advance $2,000, which was deemed 
enough to build an instrument acceptable by Congress, and 
defray the cost of patents. Morse now granted Vail a 
partnership, with one-fourth interest in the United States 
patents: it being agreed that Vail should improve the ap- 
paratus to the best of his ability, and exhibit it on request. 

Vail rolled up his sleeves and began work. On the upper 
floor of a small mill near his father's house in Morristown, 
in months of untiring labor, he produced instruments which 
were virtually perfect. They are used to-day in essentially 
the forms he bestowed upon them. His family, with just 
pride in one of the great inventors of all time, have kept 
the mill in repair to this hour. With its crumbling water- 
wheel it recalls one of the supreme expansions of electrical 
empire. In a case on the main floor of the National Mu- 
seum, in Washington, is the original Morse telegraph as it 
came into the hands of Vail. Beside it are the instruments 
developed from that telegraph a few months thereafter by 

Morse's mechanism, in its first form, before Vail saw it, 
would send a message for only about forty feet. This 
meant failure, unless much longer distances were feasible. 


Here Professor Leonard D. Gale, who occupied the chair 
of chemistry at New York University, gave Morse help so 
vital that he was admitted to a partnership. Morse was 
using only one voltaic cell. Gale, drawing upon the tele- 
graph of Joseph Henry, set up in Albany in 1831, bade 
Morse use several cells ; and told him to wrap his electro- 
magnet with many coils of wire instead of one coil. This 
was promptly done : at once the distance to which a message 
could be sent was multiplied a hundred-fold, and all hazard 
of failure was at an end. 

Morse's signals were at first numerals only, such as for 
many years had been used in the navies of the world. In 
sending a despatch every word had to be translated into its 
number, as set forth in a dictionary. Thus 3842, let us 
suppose, meant " wheat." When 3842 was received at a 
distant station, it was retranslated into " wheat." Each 
numeral was signaled by type which bore protruding teeth 
of corresponding number, suitably spaced. Each type was 
mechanically moved along a tape, automatically making and 
breaking an electric circuit. From this expedient Morse 
passed to his chief invention, that of an alphabet repre- 
sented by dots and dashes, produced by saw teeth and flat 
spaces on the metallic bars which completed a circuit. 

This code was the final term in a series of symbols, 
worthy to follow that supreme stride in language, the re- 
duction of spoken sounds to written signs. An alphabetical 
code of signals is recorded by Polybius, one hundred and 
fifty years before the birth of Christ. In that scheme the 
twenty-four Greek letters were distributed in five tablets, 
each comprising five letters, except the fifth tablet, which 
had one space vacant. Torches, one to five, exposed on the 
left side, indicated a particular tablet: similar torches on 
the right side indicated a particular letter on that special 
tablet. This plan was copied, varied, and simplified in many 
ways, issuing at last in the codes of modern armies and 


navies. Written codes once occupied the leisure of Francis 
Bacon, who in " The Advancement of Learning," published 
in 1605, showed how " a's " and " b's " could be arranged 
in fives to signify an alphabet. For example, he represented 


K ! l* rjvc N ) o ~p q *l? 


[By permission from The Century Magazine, New York, March, 1912.] 

" e " by " aabaa." He said : " This contrivance shows a 
method of expressing and signifying one's mind to any dis- 
tance by objects either visible or audible, provided that they 
are capable of two differences, as bells, speaking-trumpets, 
fire-works, or cannon.-" Abraham Rees, in his Cyclopedia, 
published in 1809, revived the code of Bacon, using " I " 


and " 2 " instead of " a " and " b " as elements. Thus 
" e " was denoted by " 11211." In 1829, James Swaim, of 
Philadelphia, published " The Mural Diagraph ; or the Art 
of Conversing Through a Wall," in which knocks and 
scratches were the two diverse signals. He saw that fewer 
than five signals would suffice for part of his code ; " e," 
the letter oftenest used, he represented by a single scratch; 
one knock stood for " a." In the middle of several letters 
he introduced a space, and this defect, copied by Morse, to 
this day afflicts five letters of his alphabet. For example, 
" c " is represented by " . . . ", and is thus liable to con- 
fusion with " ie," " i " being " . . ", and "e" being ".". 

In Germany the first electric telegraphs employed a mag- 
netic needle, whose swayings to the right or left signified 
the alphabet and the ten numerals. In this field Schilling 
was the pioneer, probably as early as 1830; in his code a 
single movement to the right was " e," a single motion to the 
left was " t," ranking in its frequency second to " e." Gauss 
and Weber, in 1833, devised a like code ; they signified " e " 
by one motion to the left. Three years later Steinheil de- 
vised a code which differed but little from its forerunners.* 

It is clear that the German code-makers sought to give 
the briefest signals to the letters most in use. Long before 
their day printers had ascertained in what proportions the 
various letters are used in composition. In English " e " 
comes first, then " t," " a," " n," " o," and " s " ; " z " is 
employed once while " e " is required sixty times. Alfred 
Vail, as Morse revised his signals, took counsel from The 
Jersey man, then as now the local newspaper of Morristown, 
carefully noting in what quantities its types .were divided 
in its " cases." Morse's original recorder, as we have seen, 
held a pen or pencil which, as it swayed from side to side, 

* William B Taylor in the Smithsonian Report, 1878, has a memoir 
on " Henry and the Telegraph." At page 357 he describes alpha- 
betic binary notation in its successive phases. 


marked a zigzag on the paper traveling beneath. Vail 
improved this instrument by giving its armature an up 
and down motion, as in the familiar sounders of to-day 
derived from his invention. He thus registered dots and 
dashes in a continuous line, scoring an inestimable advance 
on the unrecordable swings of German needles, or the zig- 
zag lines of Morse's first register. Alfred Vail died in Mor- 
ristown on January 18, 1859. It has been repeatedly de- 
clared that he and not Morse devised the dot-and-dash 
alphabet, a claim set forth in detail by the late Franklin 
Leonard Pope, in the Century Magazine for April, 1888. 
In the same magazine for March, 1912, Edward Lind Morse, 
a son of Professor Morse, controverts Mr. Pope, adducing 
evidence newly discovered. A decisive fact is that Alfred 
Vail, in his book, " The American Electro-magnetic Tele- 
graph," issued in Philadelphia in 1845, gives an illustrated 
description of the dot-and-dash alphabet, which he credits 
to Professor Morse, adding two pages of messages in its 

In the article just mentioned, Mr. Pope said, ascribing 
to Vail the dot-and-dash alphabet : " Vail's conception of 
an alphabetical code, based on the elements of time and 
space, has never met with the appreciation that it deserves. 
Its utility is not confined to electric telegraphy. It is used 
to signal, by intermittent flashes of light, between far 
distant stations of the Coast Survey, and between the dif- 
ferent vessels of a fleet; it is sounded upon whistles and 
bells to convey intelligence to and from steamers cautiously 
feeling their way through the obscurity of fogs; and, in 
fact, nearly every day brings to notice some new field of 
usefulness for this universal symbolic language. It ap- 
peals to almost every one of our senses, for it may be inter- 
preted with almost equal facility by the sight, the touch, the 
taste, and the hearing. Indeed, with a charged electrical 
conductor and a knowledge of Vail's alphabetical code, even 
the transmitting and receiving instruments of the electric 
telegraph may be dispensed with in emergencies." 


The amended Morse alphabet was introduced to the pub- 
lic on January 24, 1838, at New York University : its signals 
were transmitted easily and clearly through ten miles of 
wire. In a few days Vail conducted an equally successful 
exhibition at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, amid 
applause. Judge Vail, encouraged by these successes, now 
authorized Morse to apply for patents in Europe. With 
high hopes Morse and Vail next proceeded to Washington 
to exhibit the telegraph to Congress. The Chairman of its 
House Committee on Commerce was the Hon. Francis 
O. J. Smith, of Maine, through whom an exhibition was 
arranged in the Capitol. President Van Buren, his Cab- 
inet, and other public men of distinction, on February 21, 
1838, viewed the telegraph at work with astonishment and 
commendation. The Hon. Mr. Smith was instructed to 
report a bill appropriating $30,000 to build an experimental 
line from Washington to Baltimore. His faith in the tele- 
graph was as fervent as that of Morse. He agreed to re- 
sign from Congress and become a partner with one- fourth 
interest in Morse's patent. This fourth was contributed in 
equal parts by Morse and Vail, reducing Vail's interest, be 
it noted, from one-fourth to one-eighth. Smith was to be 
the legal adviser of the partnership, and accompany Morse 
to Europe to obtain patents, Smith paying all expenses and 

In the course of a long letter to Mr. Smith, Morse ut- 
tered a prophecy since more than fulfilled : 

" From the enterprising character of our countrymen, 
shown in the manner in which they carry forward any 
new project which promises private or public advantage, it 
is not visionary to suppose that it would not be long before 
the whole surface of this country would be channeled for 
those nerves which are to diffuse, with the speed of thought, 
a knowledge of all that is occurring throughout the land; 
making, in fact, one neighborhood of the whole country." 


But the fulfilment of Morse's prophecy came with leaden 
feet. On May 16, 1838, he sailed from New York for Eng- 
land. In London he found that Professor Wheatstone and 
Mr. Cooke had patented a telegraph based on the deflec- 
tions of five magnetic needles, and requiring six conductors 
between its terminals. Morse demonstrated that his sys- 
tem was much more simple and economical, while it in- 
cluded an indelible record. He was denied a patent for 
England on the ground that his telegraph had been " pub- 
lished." A full description had appeared in the London 
Mechanics' Magazine for February 10, 1838, copied from 
Silliman's Journal for October, 1837. Morse then pro- 
ceeded to France, where he had no difficulty in securing 
a patent. He next sought to introduce his telegraph in Rus- 
sia, and accordingly entered into a contract to that end 
with the Russian Counsellor of State, Count Meyendorff. 
But the Czar refused to ratify the contract, as he thought 
that malevolence could easily interrupt communication. 

Morse's visit to Europe, while a failure so far as his 
main purpose was concerned, enabled him to form one of 
the warmest friendships of his life. In Paris he heard of 
the achievements of Daguerre, whose photographs were 
then exciting the civilized world. He invited Daguerre to 
examine his telegraph, and requested permission to see the 
results of Daguerre's experiments in the art of painting 
with sunbeams. Daguerre received Morse with open arms, 
and explained every detail of his process, with a view to 
Morse introducing it in America. Thirty minutes were re- 
quired for an exposure at that time, so that portraiture was 
out of the question until quick plates were devised. When 
Morse returned to America his brothers, Sidney and 
Richard, erected on the roof of their new building on the 
site of the present Morse Building, on the northeast corner 
of Nassau and Beekman Streets, New York, " a palace for 
the sun," as Mr. S. E. Morse was pleased to na,me it, a room 


with a glass roof, in which Professor Morse experimented 
with the new and beautiful art. While this structure was 
in progress, he pursued his experiments with great success 
in his rooms at the New York University on Washington 
Square. In a letter of February 10, 1855, he said: 

" As soon as the necessary apparatus was made, I com- 
menced experimenting with it. The greatest obstacle I had 
to encounter was in the quality of the plates. I obtained 
the common plated copper in coils at the hardware shops 
which, of course, was very thinly coated with silver, and 
that impure. The first experiment crowned with any suc- 
cess was a view of the Unitarian Church, from the 
third-story window on the staircase of the University. 
The time, if I recollect, in which the pate was exposed 
to the action of the light in the camera, was about fifteen 

" In my intercourse with Daguerre, I specially conversed 
with him in regard to taking portraits of living persons. 
He expressed himself somewhat skeptical as to its prac- 
ticability, only in consequence of the time necessary for the 
person to remain immovable. The time for taking an out- 
door view was from fifteen to twenty minutes, and this he 
considered too long a time for any one to remain suf- 
ficiently still for a successful result. No sooner, however, 
had I mastered the process of Daguerre, than I commenced 
to experiment, with a view to accomplish this desirable re- 
sult. I have now the results of these experiments taken 
in September, or the beginning of October, 1839. They are 
full length portraits of my daughter, single, and also in 
group with some of her young friends. They were taken 
out-of-doors, on the roof of a building, in the full sunlight, 
and with the eyes closed. The time was from ten to 
twenty minutes. . . . For five or six months I pursued the 
taking of daguerreotypes as a means of income. I aban- 
doned the practice to give my exclusive attention to the 
telegraph, which required all my time." 

Regarding the possibilities of this new art, Morse wrote 
to Washington Allston: 


" Art is to be wonderfully enriched by this discovery. 
How narrow and foolish the idea which some express that it 
will be the ruin of art, or, rather, artists, for every one will 
be his own painter. One effect, I think, will undoubtedly 
be to banish the sketchy, slovenly daubs that pass for 
spirited and learned ; those works which possess more gen- 
eral effect without detail, because, forsooth, detail destroys 
general effect. Nature, in the results of Daguerre's process, 
has taken the pencil into her own hands, and she shows that 
the minutest detail disturbs not the general repose. Artists 
will learn how to paint, and amateurs, or, rather, con- 
noisseurs, how to criticise, how to look at Nature, and, 
therefore, how to estimate the value of true art. Our 
studies will now be enriched with sketches from Nature 
which we can store up during the summer, as the bee 
gathers her sweets for winter, and we shall thus have rich 
materials for composition, and an exhaustless store for the 
imagination to feed upon." 

Morse became so skilful with his camera that, in No- 
vember, 1840, he records taking a portrait in ten seconds. 
As Daguerre's process was not patented in the United 
States, a good many enterprising young fellows came to 
Morse for instruction in photography, that they might 
travel through the country and reap a goodly harvest. In 
this way he launched at least twenty camerists who acquired 
local fame. 

Apart from his friendship with Daguerre, Morse's visit 
of ten months to Europe bore no fruit whatever. He came 
home in April, 1839, having failed to induce any govern- 
ment to adopt his telegraph. The only patent he secured, 
that from France, was tied up with conditions which ren- 
dered it worthless. Meanwhile not only had Congress 
omitted to vote the $30,000, which Morse and his partners 
had confidently expected, but the House had fallen into 
utter apathy regarding the whole scheme of electric teleg- 
raphy. At this ebb in their fortunes, Judge Vail became 
thoroughly disheartened, and no wonder. His advances in 


cash were much more than at the outset Morse had esti- 
mated. His son had reconstructed, or, rather, recreated, 
the instruments of Morse. He had conducted the exhibi- 
tions in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, which 
had been reported with eulogy to Congress. To secure the 
cooperation of Mr. Chairman Smith, Alfred Vail had 
parted with one-half his original interest in the net returns 
from the Morse patent. And what added to Judge Vail's 
depression of mind was the financial panic which had just 
swept the country, laying a heavy hand upon the Speed- 
well Iron Works. But Morse, although near the end of 
his tether, was no Mr. Ready-to-halt. His hopes, dashed 
and chilled, were irrepressible. He was willing to take a 
slice of bread if refused a loaf. He modified his request 
for aid from Congress, asking a grant of $3,500 to build a 
line between the White House or one of the Departments, 
and the Capitol, or the Navy Yard. This appeal met with 
no response. Faint, yet pursuing, Morse wrote to Smith: 

" While, so far as the invention itself is concerned, 
everything is favorable, I find myself without sympathy 
or help from any who are associated with me, whose in- 
terest one would think would impel them at least to in- 
quire if they could render some assistance. For nearly 
two years past, I have devoted all my time and scanty 
means, living on a mere pittance, denying myself all pleas- 
ures, and even necessary food, that I might have a sum to 
put my telegraph into such a position before Congress as 
to insure success to the common enterprise. I am crushed 
for want of means, and means of so trifling a character, too, 
that they who know how to ask (which I do not) could ob- 
tain in a few hours. ... I will not run in debt if I lose the 
whole matter. So, unless I have the means from some 
source, I shall be compelled, however reluctantly, to leave 
it; and, if I once get engaged in my profession again, the 
telegraph and its proprietors will urge me from it in 
vain. . . . 

" ' Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.' It is true, 


and I have known the full meaning of it. Nothing but the 
consciousness that I have an invention which is to mark 
an era in human civilization, and which is to contribute to 
the happiness of millions, would have sustained me through 
so many and such lengthened trials of patience in perfect- 
ing it." 

In December, 1842, Morse took his final stand; once again 
he applied for aid to Congress, resolved that in case he 
received no for an answer he would return to his easel 
and abandon telegraphy for good and all. He was greatly 
heartened when the Committee on Commerce, for the sec- 
ond time, recommended an appropriation of $30,000 in 
furtherance of his plans. The bill passed by a vote of 89 
Yeas to 83 Nays ; all the New Jersey votes, six in number, 
thanks to the activity of Judge Vail, were Yeas. Had these 
votes been withheld, or adverse, the appropriation would 
have been lost. In the Senate, during the last hour of its 
session, March 3, 1843, the bill was passed, and then duly 
signed by the President. Morse long afterward wrote to a 
friend : 

" This was the turning point in the history of the tele- 
graph. My personal funds were reduced to the fraction of 
a dollar; and had the passage of the bill failed from any 
cause, there would have been little prospect of another at- 
tempt on my part to introduce to the world my new in- 

On March 4, 1843, Morse wrote to Vail : 

" You will be glad to learn, doubtless, that my bill has 
passed the Senate without a division, and without opposi- 
tion, so that now the telegraphic enterprise begins to look 
bright. . . . The whole delegation of your State, without 
exception, deserve the highest gratitude of us all." 

Morse forthwith became superintendent of the telegraph 
line which was to unite Washington with Baltimore. His 

Born September 25, 1807. Died January 19, 1859 

[From a daguerreotype taken about 1853, in the possession of his son, James 
Cumming Vail, Morristown, N. J.] 


salary was $2,500 a year. On March 31, Vail became as- 
sistant superintendent: three dollars a day was his modest 
remuneration, plus expenses. He began work with his 
customary skill and verve. He soon found out how to 
unite several circuits with a single battery, a feat of im- 
portance as telegraphy lengthened and interlaced its lines 
He further improved his register, and in masterly fashion. 
Instead of either pencil or pen, liable to become blunt or 
broken with use, he attached a steel point to his armature, 
which embossed the paper strip as it rolled around its cylin- 
der. To aid this indenting effect, the cylinder was belted 
with a narrow groove, just where it received the steel point. 
In one detail, Vail's judgment, usually sound, was at fault. 
With British experience in mind, he believed that his wires 
should be laid in underground conduits. Defective insula- 
tion brought this plan to failure. Then he resorted, and 
with success, to aerial suspension, as advised by Professor 
Henry. This method, had Vail but known it, had long be- 
fore approved itself in the lines of Dyar in America, and of 
Weber in Germany. Ezra Cornell, who had been a traveling 
agent for a patent plow, took the contract for rearing the 
poles and suspending their wires. This was his first venture 
in telegraphic construction, an industry which yielded him a 
handsome fortune, part of which went to found Cornell 
University at Ithaca, New York. 

Cornell began stringing his wires from pole to pole 
in Washington, on April i, 1843; on May 23, he belted the 
last insulator at Mount Clare, in Baltimore. A Grove bat- 
tery of one hundred cups was provided, and the instruments, 
through their forty miles of wire, throbbed with a grati- 
fying resonance. Next day, May 24, Morse sent from 
Washington to Vail, in Baltimore, the famous message sug- 
gested by Miss Ellsworth, " What hath God wrought ! " 
(Numbers xxiii:23). The signals received at Baltimore 
were repeated to Washington. Then followed a familiar 


conversation between the two cities, the first in a series 
which shall end only with the last page of American history. 
At first, both in Washington and Baltimore, skepticism pre- 
vailed as to this mysterious telegraph. But this was to be 
banished, and within two days after Miss Ellsworth's 
despatch; when on May 26, the National Democratic Con- 
vention met in Baltimore, to nominate candidates for its 
ticket, the Vice-Presidency was offered to Silas Wright. 
His declination, received by telegraph, was hailed by the 
delegates with incredulity. When their messenger from 
Washington confirmed the telegram, doubts were at an end. 

But such faith in the telegraph as might exist bore little 
fruit in works. For its first four days its income was, in 
all, one cent at the Washington office. On the fifth day 
the receipts were twelve and a half cents. The sixth day 
was Sunday. On the seventh day sixty cents came in ; next 
day, one dollar and thirty-two cents; next day, one dollar 
and four cents. Almost two years later, for the quarter 
ending March 31, 1846, the receipts of the line were only 
$203.43. Let us recall the rates : at first one cent for four 
characters: afterward, from Washington to Baltimore, ten 
cents for ten words, and one cent for each additional word ; 
from Washington to New York, fifty cents for ten words, 
and five cents for each extra word. 

Disappointing as his financial returns undoubtedly were, 
Morse now carried out a highly important scientific applica- 
tion of his telegraph. In 1839 he had suggested to Arago, 
in Paris, that the telegraph could determine longitudes 
with a new accuracy. On June 12, 1844, Captain Charles 
Wilkes, who had commanded the famous expedition around 
the world, ascertained by telegraph that Battle Monument 
Square, in Baltimore, is i minute, 34.868 seconds east of 
the Capitol in Washington. About this time Morse recast 
and improved his alphabet, failing, however, to drop the 
spacings, which, to this day, mar his code. In European 



codes these spacirigs do not occur. In a minor detail of 
communication, Morse now inaugurated a practice which 
has greatly economized the time and cost of telegraphy, by 
devising brief and simple abbreviations of the words and 
phrases most in use. His lists, much extended since his 
day, have spread from telegraphers to stenographers and 
ordinary note-takers, with gain all round. Usually the let- 
ters chosen for an abbreviation suggest the word, as " ate " 

Now in the National Museum, Washington, D. C. 

for " Atlantic." Parallel with the shortening of words has 
proceeded the development of secret codes. In these codes, 
the words must be as unlike as possible, and each, of course, 
bears no suggestion of the phrase or the sentence which it 
signifies. " Medehulp " in a cable code means " your order 
for additional goods received too late to ship with previous 
order : will forward at once." By an international agree- 
ment, no code-word may exceed ten letters. Astonishing 
accuracy is attained in handling these codes, especially when 


one remembers that the words follow one another in arbi- 
trary succession, in what seems to be sheer nonsense. An 
operator in New York, receiving code messages from an 
Atlantic cable, has fallen into but one error in a year and a 
half. But from the fruitage of to-day let us return to the 
hard work of planting the seeds of modern telegraphy. 

Congress, in addition to its original grant of $30,000, 
voted $8,000 toward the maintenance of the line joining 
Washington with Baltimore. Further aid, urgently needed, 
was refused. Morse offered his patents to the Government 
for $100,000. The Hon. Cave Johnson, Postmaster-Gen- 
eral, reported : " The operation of the telegraph between 
Washington and Baltimore has not satisfied me that, under 
any rate of postage that could be adopted, its revenues 
could be made equal to its expenditures." Thus ended the 
hopes of Morse that his telegraph should be a governmental 
mode of communication, supplementing the Post Office, as 
now in Great Britain and the leading countries of Conti- 
nental Europe. Morse and his fellow-owners of the tele- 
graph patent, thus finding impossible the national adoption 
of their enterprise, on May 15, 1845, organized " The Mag- 
netic Telegraph Company," for the purpose of constructing 
and operating a telegraph line from New York to Wash- 
ington. All concerned were confident that the longer a 
line, within reasonable limits, the more business per mile 
it would enjoy. Their company, the first of many such 
companies in America, received subscriptions to the amount 
of $15,000. A leading house of bankers in Washington, 
Corcoran & Riggs, headed the list with $1,000. Among the 
subscribers of $500 each was Ezra Cornell. This time 
Morse's hopes were not merely fulfilled, bu't exceeded. 
With the extension of wires from Baltimore to New York 
began the triumphs of American telegraphy. As soon as 
April 20, 1846, he was able to say : " A few weeks more 
and Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Wash- 


ington will be connected, 428 miles; and also New York, 
Albany, and Buffalo, 433 miles. Besides these are many 
branch lines of 30 to 40 miles each. I have a telegram 
in which 94 characters were distinctly written in one min- 
ute. In one instance a battery of two cups operated a line 
of 130 miles with perfect success." 

As to the speed of transmission, he had this to say on 
December 15, 1846: 

" The President's message, on the subject of the war with 
Mexico, was accurately transmitted to the Baltimore Sun 
at the rate of 99 letters per minute. My skilful operators 
have printed these characters at the rate of as many as 177 
letters per minute. . . . He must be an expert penman who 
can write legibly more than 100 letters per minute; conse- 
quently, my mode of communication equals, or nearly 
equals, the most expeditious mode known of recording 

Morse at first found Vail not quite careful in sending his 
signals. He wrote him : " You confound your ' m's,' * t's,' 
and ' 1's/ and do not separate your words. Sometimes your 
dots were not made. It is not the fault of our local battery 
here, for at other times it worked perfectly well, but for 
want, I think, of perfect contact in touching at your end. 
... Be particular to-day. . . ." And again : " Strike your 
dots firmer, and do not separate the two dots of the f O ' so 
far apart. Condense your language more, leaving out 
' the ' whenever you can, and when ' h ' follows ' t,' separate 
them so that they shall not be e 8.' The beginning of a 
long common word will generally be sufficient if not, I can 
easily ask you to repeat the whole, for example, ' Butler 
made communication in favor of majority rule.' ' Butler 
made com- in fav of maj. rule '. . . ." 

Although Vail's expertness as an operator came to him 
slowly, his commanding ability as an inventor was in full 

i6 4 


swing from the morning that telegraphy was installed as a 
business enterprise. At first a receiving relay weighed 185 
pounds : this he rapidly reduced. To-day an effective relay 
is but four ounces in weight. Vail, who had the ear and 
touch of an accomplished musician, soon found that he could 
send well-timed free-hand signals, discarding the port-rule, 
or type-carrier, of Morse, with its incidental botheration. 
In a few weeks he constructed a circuit-closer in the shape 
of a finger key, by which signals could be readily sent. A 
spring lever form of this device, suggested by Thomas C. 
Avery, of New York, was next built and improved. Its 

[In the cabinet of the Western Union Telegraph Co., New York.] 

essential features have been inherited by every key manipu- 
lated at this hour by operators throughout America. 

A further simplification of equal worth entered next, and 
quite unbidden. Operators of quick ear soon interpreted 
signals solely by the sound of the armature-lever. Morse 
always regarded the permanent marking of signals on 
paper as the core of his system, and, dreading liability for 
error, he stoutly opposed this reading by ear. But it ex- 
tended itself irresistibly; it was simple, and, to everybody's 
astonishment, it was accurate as well. Hearing was dis- 
covered to be able to do new work, and to do it perfectly. 
The Morse recorder has passed out of use except in schools 
where, to learners in pairs, it declares how they stand in 


speed and accuracy from day to day. Sounds, at first 
merely incidental, are now the one means of receiving a 
telegram. To augment their efficiency, modern receiving 
instruments are manufactured to emit a loud, clear note. 

In the instrument of Morse and Vail, as modified by later 
inventors, much survives of the simple apparatus devised 
by Joseph Henry in Albany, in 1831, a year before Morse 
embarked on the Sully. Henry's battery of several cells, 
affording him an intense current, his wire circuit, his electro- 
magnet of many coils, his armature-lever, and the bell 
struck by that lever, all serve to-day on the operator's table, 
greatly bettered in form and material, but changed in no 
essential particular. Henry's rough-and-ready transmitter, 
a wire dipped in mercury, is replaced by Vail's finger-key. 
The adjustable stops, between which the armature plays, 
borrowed by Henry from Page, maintain themselves as in- 
dispensable. Prior to 1837, the American telegraph was 
the work of Morse and Henry. During the seven years 
which followed 1837, it was remodeled by Vail. Gradually 
the contributions of Morse have fallen into disuse, and the 
instrument of to-day is virtually due to Henry and Vail. 

Often the question arises, Why did not Vail lay claim to 
perfecting the Morse apparatus? The late Franklin 
Leonard Pope discussed this question in the Century Maga- 
zine, of April, 1888, in an article already mentioned. After 
a review of the facts, he concluded that Vail deemed that 
he had merely improved the inventions of Morse ; although 
in reality, he transformed them almost beyond recognition. 
Vail, too, seems to have believed that, as a partner with 
Morse, he was debarred from taking out patents in his own 
name. Moreover, the Morse patents were constantly and 
bitterly assailed in the courts, and Vail, as a co-proprietor of 
them, could neither with honor, nor safety, set up any per- 
sonal claims. To use his own words, inscribed on a model 
of his indenting register, he " wished to preserve the peace- 


ful unity of the invention." In the joint venture of Morse 
and himself, Morse was undoubtedly the captain of the ship. 
But he owed vastly more to his first mate than he ever ac- 

While Morse was experimenting with his telegraph, in 
the summer of 1842, he proved that its signals could take 
their way through water as well as overland. He took cop- 
per wire, one-twelfth of an inch thick, and insulated it with 
pitch, tar, and India rubber. The cable thus produced was 
laid from the Battery at the foot of Manhattan Island to 
Governor's Island, about a mile off. Three or four char- 
acters had been transmitted, when the line was severed by 
the anchor of a passing ship. During the following De- 
cember Morse repeated this experiment, with gratifying 
success, in the canal at Washington. He naturally regarded 
with confidence the project for an Atlantic cable. On Sep- 
tember 30, 1854, he wrote to Faraday: 

" Taking for granted a successful result of the experi- 
ment on the propulsion of a current to the required distance, 
that is to say, from Newfoundland to Ireland, I have pro- 
posed that the cable conductor be constructed in the fol- 
lowing manner : The conducting wires of the circuit to be 
the purest copper, each not less than one-eighth of an inch 
in sectional diameter. Each wire to be insulated to the 
thickness also of one-eighth of an inch with gutta percha. 
If it should be decided by the company that, in the first 
instance, a single conductor shall be laid down, then a thin 
tube of lead, about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness, is 
to be drawn over the wire conductor and its gutta percha 
covering, and then a series of strands of common iron wire 
and of hempen cord, or rope yarn of the same size, say four 
or five of the former and the rest of the latter, are to be laid 
parallel with the interior conducting wire, on the exterior of 
the tube, and these are to be confined in place by two spiral 
cords wound in contrary directions and crossing each 
other around the cable at intervals, of, say, nine or twelve 


When the steam frigate Niagara was commissioned to lay 
the first Atlantic cable, Morse was an invited guest. He 
took a keen interest in the unremitting labor of paying out 
the line and testing its conductivity. On the fateful-morn- 
ing of August n, 1857, the line parted abruptly, and Morse 
was obliged to return to England. Next year a second 
cable was laid, only to prove a failure. For a decisive ex- 
periment, the Great Eastern, much the largest steamship of 
her day, was laden with a strong and carefully manufactured 
cable, sailing on July 13, 1866. Two weeks thereafter the 
wire was landed on the American shore, to enter upon long 
and faithful service. 

But let us turn back a page or two of telegraphic his- 
tory, and note how Morse, as soon as his telegraph was an 
assured triumph in America, sought to introduce it in 
Europe. On this errand he sailed from New York on 
August 6, 1845, arriving in Liverpool nine days afterward. 
The General Commercial Telegraph Company of London 
was then operating the British telegraphs with Wheatstone 
and Cooke's needle instruments, which required two wires 
to complete a circuit, with only one-half the speed of the 
Morse apparatus. He offered the Company his instruments 
for a thousand pounds, plus one-fourth of the cash they 
would save their purchasers. This offer was declined. On 
October 9, Morse wrote to his daughter: 

" I know not what to say of my telegraphic matters here 
yet. There is nothing decided upon, and I have many ob- 
stacles to contend against, particularly the opposition of the 
proprietors of existing telegraphs. But that mine is the best 
system, I have now no doubt; all that I have seen, while 
they are ingenious, are more complicated, more expensive, 
less efficient, and easier deranged. It may take some 
time to establish the superiority of mine over the others, for 
there is the usual array of prejudice and interest against a 
system which throws others out of use." 


In Vienna Morse exhibited his telegraph to the Emperor 
and Empress of Austria. Proceeding to Paris, he renewed 
his acquaintance with Arago, who presented him and his 
telegraph to the French Chamber of Deputies. Here, as 
elsewhere throughout his tour, Morse received hearty com- 
mendation, only vocal, however, and with this and nothing 
else to cheer him he returned home. In 1846 his American 
patent was reissued: it defined with new precision the 
claims of his original patent of 1840. From day to day he 
could watch, with fatherly pride, the building of telegraph 
lines as they radiated from New York, Boston, and Wash- 
ington. It was apprehended that the Hudson River might 
not be crossed with success. A cable, duly laid, worked 
perfectly from the moment of its immersion. Regarding a 
printing telegraph, he wrote on April 20, 1846, to M. 
Brequet, a French electrician : 

". . . My friend and co-proprietor in the Telegraph, Mr. 
Vail, some time in 1837, was intent on producing a print- 
ing telegraph, and gave the project much thought. I uni- 
formly discouraged him, however, on the ground, not that 
such a plan was impracticable, but, in comparison with the 
method I had devised, worthless, since, were such a mode 
perfectly accomplished and in actual use, my more simple 
mode would inevitably supersede the more complicated 
mode. Mr. Vail, in his work entitled ' The American 
Electro-magnetic Telegraph,' discusses the whole matter. 
Experience has proved that when my system is put to the 
test in competition with the common letter-printing tele- 
graphs of Europe, mine has proved superior. In Vienna, 
for example, Mr. Bain's letter-printer, the most ingenious of 
all, was examined with mine publicly before one of the 
largest and most learned assemblies ever convened in that 
capital, and the American Telegraph carried the day by 
acclamation, and is now adopted by that Government." 

Until 1847, when Morse was fifty-six years of age, he was 
all but homeless from the day he left his father's house in 


his youth. Soon after his marriage in 1818, he had estab- 
lished himself in New Haven, but he had to earn his bread 
elsewhere, and seldom could he sit by his hearthstone. 
This was a severe hardship to a man of his warm domestic 
feelings. To be virtually homeless sharpened the sting of 
poverty, and he may well have often doubted whether he 
had been wise in choosing art as his career. Now, at last, 
not his easel, but his telegraph, began to yield him a mod- 
erate income, with a prospect of steady increase. He felt 
warranted in rearing a roof-tree for his remaining years, 
and in sharing it with a wife. As a homestead he chose 
Locust Grove, near Poughkeepsie, New York ; and he mar- 
ried Miss Sarah E. Griswold, the daughter of a cousin. 
He next placed his business affairs in the hands of a trusty 
friend, the Hon. Amos Kendall, formerly United States 
Postmaster-General, and then retired to what he hoped 
would be rest and peace. But this hope was unfulfilled ; he 
was constantly obliged to withstand infringers of his 
patents. Again and again in the courts he had to adduce 
evidence that always won him victory. But these victories 
were costly, and robbed him of a goodly part of earnings 
which, even in the gross, were but moderate. A well- 
informed estimate of his net returns from his American 
patents places them at $80,000, and no more. His first 
patent, granted in 1840, expired June 19, 1854. It was ex- 
tended for seven years, chiefly through the recommendation 
of Professor Joseph Henry. 

When legal contentions were intermitted, Morse's life at 
Locust Grove was placid and simple. He rose at half-past 
six o'clock, and remained in his study until eight o'clock, 
when he had breakfast. Most of his day was occupied 
with reading and writing. On a table at his side stood a 
telegraph key : by its aid he could converse with friends hun- 
dreds of miles away. He had conferred a nervous system 
upon America ; it vibrated at his will, greatly to his aid and 


cheer. Some years after taking up his residence at Locust 
Grove, he bought a commodious house at No. 5 West 
Twenty-second Street, New York, the third house west of 
Fifth Avenue. This became his home in winter, and a 
charming home it was, with its broad library and study, 
adorned with pictures from his own brush. Here the pres- 
ent writer was presented to him in his eightieth year. Even 
then he stood erect, with a dignity and courtesy unaffected 
by his burden of years. He said that he had just received 
pleasant news from Germany : " Many German inventors 
have devised new and ingenious telegraph instruments, but 
from every quarter of the empire they ask for the Morse." 
Morse, as we have seen, obtained but one patent in 
Europe, namely, from France, and this was burdened with 
conditions which made it valueless. Far and wide through- 
out Europe, 1 -ever, his apparatus went into service, and 
details of practice, worked out in America at his instance, 
were adopted in all the leading countries of the Continent. 
In view of these facts, and in view of the comparatively 
scant remuneration which he had enjoyed from his Amer- 
ican patents, Morse, in 1857, by the advice of friends hold- 
ing high official stations, issued a memorial claiming some 
indemnity from the Governments of Europe within whose 
borders his telegraph was at work. General Lewis Cass, 
Secretary of State, sent copies of this memorial to Min- 
isters of the United States in Europe, soliciting their good 
offices on behalf of the inventor. His appeal was favorably 
received. Count Walewski, Minister of Foreign Affairs for 
France, acted as secretary of the international committee 
which took a testimonial, in hand. He addressed to Morse 
this cordial note: 

"PARIS, September i, 1858. 

" SIR : It is with lively satisfaction that I have the honor 
to announce to you that the sum of four hundred thousand 
francs will be remitted to you, in four annuities, in the name 


of France, of Austria, of Belgium, of the Netherlands, of 
Piedmont, of Russia, of the Holy See, of Sweden, of Tus- 
cany, and of Turkey, as an honorary gratuity, and as a re- 
ward, altogether personal, of your useful labors. Nothing 
can better mark, than this collective act of reward, the sen- 
timent of public gratitude which your invention has so justly 
excited. . . ." 

In this gratifying mode, as an act of justice, Morse 
received from Europe compensation equal to that accorded 
him in his native America. The note from Count Walewski 
was followed by a word from Professor Steinheil, the di- 
rector of German telegraphs. It was this distinguished man 
who discovered that the earth may serve instead of the sec- 
ond wire which, originally, was deemed indispensable as a 
return line. This discovery, which at a stroke cut down 
the cost of construction by one-half, neve" nought him a 
penny. Professor Steinheil was a gentleman: never for a 
moment was his mind warped or clouded by professional 
jealousy. He had invented an elaborate telegraph instru- 
ment : but Morse's was better, and he always said so. This 
is Steinheil's note to Morse : 

" MUNICH, October 30, 1858. 

". . . What we have done for telegraphy stands side by 
side. The contributions of the one do not encroach on the 
contributions of the other do not make the other super- 
fluous. You have contributed the quickest, simplest, and 
most beautiful mode of communication. I have reduced to 
one-half the conducting wire, and also made it surer and 
cheaper. Now it will be a satisfaction to me if this my 
contribution toward solving the great problem should be 
rewarded by my friends in Europe. But I cannot suppress 
the wish that, as I contributed to procure the acknowledg- 
ment of your invention in Europe, so you may be inclined to 
procure my portion of reward in America. It would cer- 
tainly be a noble example, seldom seen in the world's his- 
tory, the example of two men who had spent a great part 
of their lifetime in solving the same problem, appearing not 


as rivals, but as friends, each striving that the services of 
the one should be rewarded in the land of the other." 

The example of Europe in behalf of Morse was not fol- 
lowed by America with regard to the eminent German elec- 
trician. His great contribution to the wealth of the United 
States never brought him anything beyond vocal thanks. 

When Morse was well advanced in the eighth decade of 
his life, his friends, a numerous and influential band, re- 
solved to accord him a public banquet at Delmonico's. This 
entertainment took place on December 29, 1868. Chief 
Justice Chase, who had been Secretary of the Treasury in 
the Cabinet of President Lincoln, was chairman. Daniel 
Huntington, the eminent artist of New York, who had been 
a pupil of Morse's, paid him an eloquent tribute as an artist 
whose successes at the easel had prefigured his triumphs in 

Morse was a man of clinging affections. Gratitude, once 
aroused in his heart, was undying. Of Allston, his master 

*On October 5, 1911, the Western Union Telegraph Company, at 
its headquarters in New York, reported the following interesting 
facts and figures. They present a wonderful advance within a 
period of less than seventy years from May 24, 1843, when Pro- 
fessor Morse sent his famous despatch from Washington to Bal- 

The longest land line of the Company, without a repeater, stretches 
from Ogden, Utah, to Portland, Oregon, 908 miles. Its longest 
ocean cable unites Canso, Nova Scotia, with Land's End, England, 
2,563 nautical miles apart. During the past thirty years manual 
transmission has not increased its pace. Ordinary operators send 
25 words a minute; the quickest men reach 40 words a minute, with 
an occasional spurt of 52 words. Many operators receive their mes- 
sages directly on a typewriter. 

Mechanical transmission is gaining ground steadily. First of all 
the signals are reduced to perforations in a paper strip. This strip 
is rapidly swept between two metallic springs; at each perforation 
these springs meet, allowing an electric pulse to enter the line. On 
the line connecting Chicago and San Francisco by the southern 


at the easel, and in youth his generous friend, he ever spoke 
with loving veneration. In token of this feeling to the artist 
and the man, he presented Leslie's portrait of Allston to the 
National Academy of Design, New York, of which he him- 
self had long been president. He did honor to Allston's 
memory a second time, and notably, in presenting to Yale 
College Allston's celebrated painting of Jeremiah. This 
picture, which cost Morse seven thousand dollars, was fol- 
lowed by a donation of ten thousand dollars to the Theo- 
logical Department of Yale. An equal donation went to 
the Union Theological Seminary, New York, to endow 
a lectureship to bear his father's name, on " The Relation 
of the Bible to the Sciences." Long before this, indeed as 
far back as 1846, Yale College, with commendable prompti- 
tude, had conferred upon Morse the degree of Doctor of 
Laws. This honor came from the hands of President Day, 
who, as professor of physics, had undoubtedly given Morse 
his first impulse toward the telegraph. This degree from 

route, 2,785 miles in length, a speed of 70 to 80 words a minute is at- 
tained by automatic transmission. Similar apparatus is employed 
on ocean cables, with the result that on the best lines 250 letters a 
minute are forwarded On submarine wires two messages may be 
simultaneously despatched without confusion; on land wires four 
such messages seem to be the limit of feasible practice. Between 
New York and Chicago, New York and Boston, and several other 
pairs of cities, the automatic receivers print their messages on type- 

The original wire from Washington to Baltimore was placed 
underground; because of defective insulation it failed utterly. To- 
day a subterranean line is being completed which will link together 
Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, fora 
service at once telegraphic and telephonic. This will eliminate all 
risk of a break in communication by storms or snowfalls. In aerial 
lines four wires are often so disposed that four telegrams are sent 
from each terminal at once, while, at the same time, three tele- 
phonic conversations are in progress. 

At the end of 1910, the Western Union Telegraph Company had 
30,163 operators in its employ. 


his alma mater was the most cherished of the scores of 
distinctions showered upon him by colleges and universities, 
by learned societies at home and abroad, and by nations 
all the way from Turkey to Sweden. Devotion to Yale 
was always part and parcel of Morse's religion. 

As he advanced in years he suffered the inevitable in- 
firmities of old age. One morning in the summer of 1869, 
as he was going upstairs, he fell and broke a leg. This 
kept him in bed three weeks: he endured the severe pain 
and imprisonment with serenity. Thanks to his unimpaired 
constitution, shortly after he was able to come downstairs, 
he threw away his crutch and walked about almost as erect 
as ever. 

Other afflictions befell him, harder to bear. In the autumn 
of 1868, his brother, Richard, the youngest of the trio, died 
abroad. In 1871, Sidney, his only surviving brother, passed 
away. The ties of affection binding these three together 
were strong. It may be fitting here to mention an act in 
which they joined to do honor to their father's memory. 
Rev. Dr. Morse died, leaving no estate whatever, and his 
debts, amounting to a considerable sum, were assumed by 
his sons. At first Samuel could contribute nothing. When 
prosperity came to him, he insisted upon paying one-third, so 
that all the brothers might share and share alike. 

Much comes to a man by remaining on earth, even when 
he remains long after the labors which have won him 
renown. In his eighty-first year, Morse received the un- 
usual honor of having his statue reared in the city which 
had long been his home, and where he had accomplished his 
great work. This statue, of heroic size, was unveiled in 
Central Park, New York, on June 10, 1871. It was modeled 
by Byron M. Pickett, and cast in bronze by Maurice I. 
Power. It stands close to the portal at Seventy-second 
Street. Another statue, this time of Benjamin Franklin, was 
erected soon afterward, and, most appropriately, in Printing 


House Square, New York. Its inauguration was fixed for 
January 17, 1872. The committee in charge requested 
Morse to unveil their statue of a great American 
who, like himself, had subjugated electricity with the hand 
of a master. Morse was now in feeble health, sinking in 
strength a little every day. But he insisted on accepting the 
invitation. The day had been unwisely chosen; it was bit- 
terly cold, as might have been expected in midwinter. After 
Morse had withdrawn the cord that removed the covering 
from the bronze, he said : " Mr. De Groot and Fellow-citi- 
zens : I esteem it one of my highest honors that I should have 
been designated to perform the office of unveiling this day 
the fine statue of our illustrious and immortal Franklin. 
When requested to accept this duty, I was confined to my 
bed, but I could not refuse, and I said, ' Yes, if I have to be 
lifted to the spot/ Franklin needs no eulogy from me. No 
one has more reason to venerate his name than myself. May 
his illustrious example of devotion to the interest of uni- 
versal humanity be the seed of further fruit for the good of 
the world." 

He went home to die. Neuralgia seized him, and all his 
fortitude was demanded to bear its pain. He died on April 
2, 1872. His funeral took place from the Madison Square 
Presbyterian Church, on April 5. 

So ended the life of the remarkable man who established 
American telegraphy. Those of us who remember him as 
he would occasionally stroll through Madison Square, re- 
call a figure quite six feet in stature, erect and firm, almost 
to the last. His large blue eyes had the steady look which 
sees men and things as they are. Here was a gentleman of 
the old school, with dignity as his chief characteristic. In a 
circle of friends he was fond of fun, with strangers his 
manner was that of highbred reserve. In his family he 
was regarded with veneration. Those who knew him best 
loved him most. 


AIR and water, food and shelter, were the first gifts of 
Nature to man. Amid his lowly kindred he soon declared 
his primacy by wielding sticks and stones as weapons and 
tools, by plaiting leaves and grass into roofs, by rending 
hides into raiment. Next he shaped flints into rude chisels 
and knives, and, using as an awl a thorn plucked from a 
cactus, he bade a sinew fasten one hide to another. In a 
golden hour he caught a spark struck from flints, and thus 
harnessed flame to hollow a tree into a canoe, to harden clay 
into pottery, to smelt lead and iron from their ores. In new 
intensities, fire fused sand into glass, and alloyed carbon 
with iron to form steel. Meantime arts of equal dignity 
arose without aid from fire : hides were tanned into leather, 
paper was unrolled from birchbark, from the papyrus, from 
the fibers of many other plants. Thus were gifts of Nature 
exalted in value by art : the tanner added new strength and 
durability to a sheepskin; the steelmaker bestowed upon 
iron a heightened elasticity. Tanning, steelmaking, and 
their sister arts date back so far that their birth has faded 
even from myth and legend. From those remote times to 
the present day there has been but one worthy addition to 
glass and pottery, leather and paper, namely, the vulcanized 
rubber due to Charles Goodyear. Were it as cheap as glass 
or steel, it would be just as commonly and usefully em- 

Charles Goodyear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, 
on December 29, 1800, of that sound New England stock 
which has given many leaders to America. His father, 
Amasa Goodyear, was descended from Stephen Goodyear, 
successor to Governor Eaton as head of the company of 


[From the painting by G. P. A. Healy, Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and 



London merchants who, in 1683, founded the colony of 
New Haven. Charles Goodyear, as a boy, was studious 
and resolute, giving clear promise of the man. In youth 
he had some thought of entering the Christian ministry: 
throughout life his religious faith was an unfailing staff in 
every onset and repulse. At seventeen he went to Phila- 
delphia, where he mastered the .hardware trade in an ap- 
prenticeship of four years. The experience thus gained he 
turned to good account at a later period, as' we shall note. 
At twenty-one he returned to New Haven, and became a 
partner with his father in the firm of Amasa Goodyear' & 
Son. They manufactured metal buttons and spoons, 
scythes and clocks. Several of their other products were 
farm tools of steel, devised by the elder Goodyear. Of 
these the best were the forks, which slowly supplanted 
clumsy tools forged from wrought-iron at local smithies. 
As customers grudgingly bought these steel forks, young 
Goodyear learned a lesson he never forgot. The forks were 
light, springy, and durable ; yet their very lightness and fine 
finish often excited suspicion. Not seldom a well-to-do 
farmer deemed that he paid the inventor a compliment in ac- 
cepting one of his forks as a present. In producing other 
tools of like novelty, and some simple farm machinery, the 
elder Goodyear was constantly at work. His example acted 
as a spur to his son, who, like himself, was brimming with 
Yankee ingenuity. And yet, with characteristic candor, 
Charles Goodyear disclaimed any special talent as a 
mechanic. He says: 

" I do not claim to have a mechanical talent, but, on the 
contrary, have an aversion to bestowing thought upon ma- 
chinery when there is anything complicated about it. ... 
Independently of all pecuniary considerations, I have taken 
great satisfaction in trying to improve articles of necessity 
or convenience, for the use of men. Those which first en- 
gaged my attention were in the hardware line, and such as 


were immediately connected with my occupation. When- 
ever I observed an article in common use in which there 
was obviously a great defect, I commonly applied my mind 
to the subject to find, if possible, the best way of improving 
it, or removing the defect, always contesting the common 
maxim that, for the interest of trade, ' things should be 
made so that they will not last too long.' " 

In 1824, Goodyear married Clarissa Beecher; their happy 
union was blessed with seven children.* No matter how 
dire the straits into which Goodyear repeatedly fell, his wife 
bore her part with unrepining cheerfulness. \During her 
husband's long battle, she looked for victory with his own 
invincible faith. In the second year of their marriage, 
Goodyear returned to Philadelphia, where he established 
a hardware store, mainly stocked from his father's work- 
shop in New Haven. At first this business thrived, but 
Goodyear gave credit too freely, and in 1830 he was obliged 
to suspend payment, his creditors granting him a long 
period for the discharge of their claims. He refused to 
avail himself of the bankrupt law, partly because bankruptcy 
would divest him of titles to unfinished inventions. His 
decision was unfortunate : his prestige in banking circles 
was gone, and his difficulties went steadily from bad to 

*Of these children two survive: Miss Clarissa Goodyear of Win- 
sted, Connecticut, and Professor William Henry Goodyear, Curator 
of the Department of Fine Arts in the Brooklyn Institute of Arts 
and Sciences. He has acquired international honors as a student 
and author in the field of fine art. Especially acute and fruitful are 
his studies of refinements in architectural design. 

Nelson Goodyear, of New York, a grandson of Charles Goodyear, 
is the inventor of a variety of acetylene and other gas apparatus, 
both for illumination and for generating and burning combustible 
gas, in connection with oxygen , as a source of intense heat. He rep- 
resents the fourth generation in a remarkable line of inventors. 
His father, Charles Goodyear II., greatly improved the welt-sewing 
machine that bears his name, 


worse. Under the cruel laws then in force, he was, during 
the next ten years, again and again imprisoned for debt. 
Happily he found merciful men among his jailers, who al- 
lowed him to use a bench and tools. More than once he 
thus earned enough in prison to send bread to his wife 
and children. He faced all this hardship without flinching 
or complaint. As to his feelings in bondage, he wrote: 
" My anticipations of ultimate success in life were never 
changed, my hopes were never for one moment depressed." 
In those dark days, the profits from his ingenuity, though 
small, determined Goodyear to set up as an inventor. From 
boyhood he had worked with tools ; as a manufacturer and 
a merchant he had learned just what people wanted, and 
what good things they were likely to leave unbought. He 
believed with his father, that it was high time that many 
an old appliance gave place to something new and better. 
His father had made his mark by improving the tools and 
machinery for farms. Why did not Charles Goodyear stick 
to this goodly field ? What led him to gum elastic as the ob- 
ject of his thought and toil? This is his answer: 

" While yet a schoolboy, the wonderful and mysterious 
properties of this substance attracted my attention, and made 
a strong impression on my mind. A thin scale, peeled 
from a bottle or a shoe, afterward came under my notice, 
and suggested that this would be very useful as a fabric, 
if it could be made uniformly thin and could be prepared 
so as to prevent its adhering and becoming a solid mass, as 
it soon did from the warmth and pressure of my hand." 

Gum elastic first came to the United States about 1800, 
mostly from Brazil, where the natives derived it from the 
juice of the Hevea and other trees. Even in its crude 
lumps and flakes, as imported from Para to New York, it 
was a substance to excite the curiosity of a brain so in- 
quisitive and exploring as Goodyear's. He noticed that, 


while this gum was soft and yielding, it was tough in an 
extraordinary degree; it would stretch further than any 
other material he had ever handled ; it was waterproof, so as 
to be made into overshoes and raincoats. But with all these 
excellent qualities, gum elastic had glaring faults. The 
natives who gathered the gum molded it into galoshes that 
lasted for years, although in winter they froze to the hard- 
ness of iron, and in summer became as soft as suet. All the 
wares made in North America had the same limited service- 
ability. Yet why should not Yankee ingenuity and skill 
surpass the crude and faulty manufactures of Indians in 
Brazil? Over and over again the manufacturers of Con- 
necticut and Massachusetts believed that they had come 
upon the secret of preserving and curing gum elastic, only 
to land in one disastrous failure after another. That the 
last and worst of these failures was impending came to 
Goodyear's knowledge in an unexpected way. 

In New York, one morning, at the wareroom of the Rox- 
bury Rubber Company, he examined a life-preserver, to 
find that its mode of inflation was defective. Some weeks 
afterward he revisited this wareroom, offering for sale a 
new and improved tube which he had devised for this life- 
preserver. At once the Roxbury agent saw that there 
stood before him an inventor of talent. He disclosed to 
Goodyear that rubber, as then manufactured, was liable to 
decompose at a temperature of 100 Fahrenheit, or so. He 
declared that if Goodyear could prevent this ruinous change, 
he would not only enrich himself, he would ward off bank- 
ruptcy from factories whose owners had risked their all. 
Goodyear had supposed that, before huge fortunes had been 
embarked in this business, its obstacles had been wholly 
surmounted. He went home to ponder deeply what he 
had heard. For weeks he revolved in his brain the problem 
of curing or tanning rubber into an indifference such as 
leather displays to ordinary cold and heat. Surely, he 


thought, there must be some way to do this. He came 
to the conviction, from which he never budged, that every 
obstacle to successful curing would yield to persistent as- 
sault, and that he and nobody else was the man to conduct 
that assault. He tells us: 

" I was blessed with ignorance of the obstacles I had 
subsequently to encounter, but soon learned that the dif- 
ficulties attending the experimenter in gum elastic obliged 
him to await the return of both warm and cold weather, at 
least twelve months, and often much longer, before he could 
know with certainty that his manufactures would not de- 
compose. ... I was encouraged in my efforts by the re- 
flection that what is hidden and unknown, and cannot be 
discovered by scientific research, will most likely be dis- 
covered by accident, if at all, and by the man who applies 
himself most perseveringly to the subject, and is most ob- 
serving of everything related thereto." 

This bold prophecy was more than fulfilled, as we shall 
presently see. And its fulfilment lay in that very great 
agent, heat, which melted gum elastic much as if tallow 
from the shambles. This was why manufacturers of rub- 
ber goods avoided working at temperatures above 100. 
Indeed, Macintosh, who produced rubber raincoats, warned 
hrs customers against bringing them near a fire. 

With the hope before him of a goodly reward, Goodyear 
began experiments with some Brazilian gum elastic. At 
first he worked in his small dwelling, where he mixed his 
gum by hand, spreading it with a rolling-pin lent by his 
wife. Soon his admixtures were applied to emboss cam- 
brics, for which there was at that time a fair demand. A 
friend, Ralph B. Steele, of New Haven, now advanced him 
a little capital, and Goodyear soon covered his shelves with 
hundreds of pairs of rubber shoes, attractive in style, easy 
to put on and take off. But were they as good as they 
seemed ? We shall see. Goodyear all along had been both- 


ered by the persistent stickiness of his gum. He thought 
this due to the turpentine he used as a solvent. If he 
could secure a supply of gum elastic, not dissolved in tur- 
pentine, a fair test would condemn or acquit the accused 

He rejoiced when he was able to buy a few casks of gum, 
kept liquid by a little alcohol and nothing else. Shortly 
after the casks were rolled into his premises, he was called 
out by an errand for an hour or two. In that interval, Jerry 
from Ireland, his man-of-all-work, resolved to acquaint him- 
self with that liquid gum, so he applied it to his trousers with 
no sparing hand. To his alarm in a few minutes his legs 
were cemented together, and he was firmly glued to his 
bench. Only when a pair of shears had been diligently plied 
around him, was Jerry once more a free man. This ad- 
venture was decisive. It taught Goodyear that the sticki- 
ness of gum elastic inhered in itself, and was not chargeable 
to any solvent whatever. 

And what of the rubber shoes he had molded in hun- 
dreds of handsome and convenient pairs? By way of test 
he left them alone until warm weather. Then, a single hot 
day melted them into formless and reeking dough. Good- 
year had been so sanguine of success that this failure was 
mortifying in the extreme. His friends, to whom he was 
in debt, withdrew all further aid. Why should they throw 
good money after bad? Goodyear placed his family in a 
nearby village, where, soon afterward, his wife, to pay their 
way, had to sell linen she had spun at her wheel. Good- 
year betook himself to New York, where a friend, John W. 
Sexton, provided him with a lodging in Gold Street. A 
good-natured druggist, Silas Carle, advanced him the chem- 
icals he required. One of his first compounds was a union 
of gum elastic and magnesia; this, when boiled in lime 
water, underwent a tanning, with banishment of stickiness 
so far as surfaces went. This method enabled him to make 


a few sheets of rubber of fair quality, and some small orna- 
mental articles. For these, in the autumn of 1835, he re- 
ceived prizes at the fairs of the Mechanics' and American 
Institutes. But Goodyear soon saw that this lime-water 
process had but slight value. Its products might, at any 
moment, touch vinegar or other acid, when at once the 
surface coat of lime was neutralized, uncovering sticky gum 
beneath. " I have not used lime enough," was his comment. 
So he employed lime in larger proportions, only to find the 
resulting mixture too biting for his hands. He, therefore, 
resorted to machinery, with its tougher fibers of wood and 
iron. In Greenwich Village, now part of New York City, 
he hired a bench in Mr. Pike's mill, where machinery and 
motive-power were available. To this mill Goodyear often 
carried a gallon jug of slaked lime from his room in Gold 
Street, three miles away. But lime intermixed with gum 
elastic produced a compound of so little elasticity and 
strength as to be worthless. Shortly after this balking 
discovery, a sunbeam lighted up Goodyear's work-table, and 
none too soon. 

One morning he ornamented a piece of gum elastic with 
bronze, and boiled it in a weak solution of lime. On remov- 
ing the fabric from its bath, he saw that part of the bronze 
had been washed off. To detach the remainder he touched 
it with nitric acid. This instantly darkened the gum, which 
he impatiently threw aside as spoiled and useless. But 
there was something in the look and feel of that shriveled 
sheet that clung to his memory. A day or two later he 
picked it out of his rubbish-heap, and examined it, with 
a rich reward. Wherever the nitric acid had touched the 
gum, all stickiness had departed, and its surface was virtu- 
ally tanned. Goodyear sagaciously followed up this golden 
hint ; before a week had passed he was producing thin rub- 
ber sheets, cured through and through. From these he pat- 
terned table-covers and aprons, which he printed in hand- 


some designs. This acid-gas process, as he afterward called 
it, he gradually improved in every detail. By dipping his 
wares in a weak solution of nitric acid, and then in water 
mingled with a little chloride of lime, he avoided the scorch- 
ing which had pestered him in early experiments. All the 
cold processes for curing rubber, whether devised by Good- 
year or his successors, date from his happy observation of 
the effect produced by a touch of nitric acid.* 
.,^At this period of Goodyear's experiments, his wife was 
his constant helper. She it was who first built schoolroom 
globes from sheet rubber. Had she been absent, the scraps 
of her husband's pasteboard patterns would have gone to 
waste. Her deft fingers dovetailed them into bonnets, worn 
at church by herself and her daughters. 

Goodyear's thin fabrics were so novel and durable that 
they readily found a market. This attracted the interest of 
William Ballard, of New York, who proffered financial aid 
to the inventor. With little delay the firm of Goodyear 
& Ballard was formed, and began manufacturing, first in 
Bank Street, New York, and later in Staten Island. Pre- 
paring for a large business, they rented a wareroom on 
Broadway. But the panic of 1836 forced Mr. Ballard into 
bankruptcy, and the factory had to be closed. Again Good- 
year's fortunes dropped to a low ebb. One afternoon, in 
Staten Island, he could not pay his fare to New York ; so 
he pawned his umbrella with the ferrymaster, afterward 
famous as Commodore Vanderbilt. 

*In 1846, Alexander Parkes, a chemist of Birmingham, in Eng- 
land, invented a vulcanization requiring no heat. He immersed 
gum elastic in a mixture of 100 parts bisulphide of carbon and 2| parts 
of chloride of sulphur. After an immersion of from i| to 3 minutes, 
depending upon the thickness of the goods, he employed a drying 
stream of air at about 78 Fahrenheit. 

A vapor cure, requiring but moderate temperatures, is sometimes 
employed for thin fabrics. The vapor of heated chloride of sulphur 
is sent into a container in which the goods fully expose their surfaces. 


To keep the wolf from his door, he resumed the making 
of aprons and tablecloths, but the demand for these goods 
slowly fell to zero. His scanty tableware, under stress of 
want, dwindled to little more than a few cups which, by 
turns, held weak tea, or mixtures of gum, not so weak. His 
straits at last grew desperate. . One morning his family 
arose without a crumb in the cupboard, without a penny 
to buy food. He put a valued keepsake in his pocket, and 
sped toward a pawnshop. On his way thither he met a 
creditor from whom he had reason to dread reproaches. 
Great was his astonishment to be asked : " What can I do 
for you ? " When Goodyear was sure that no affront was 
intended, he said that a loan of fifteen dollars would be 
most useful. In a moment the cash was in his palm. The 
keepsake remained in Goodyear's pocket, but only to reach 
the pawnshop a fortnight later. When, at last, everything 
that could be pledged had passed out of his hands, Good- 
year borrowed a hundred dollars from James DeForest, a 
brother-in-law. This loan tided him over two or three 
months of experiments which proceeded all day and far into 
the night. Never was a discoverer more obsessed by his 
aims than was Goodyear. His thoughts centered in rub- 
ber; they were circumferenced by rubber. 'When he saw 
garments of wool, boats of ash, sails of canvas, it was only 
to imagine how much better all would be if molded in 

At that time, the largest rubber factory in America was 
in Roxbury, now part of Boston. Thither Goodyear di- 
rected his steps, hoping that at least a few branches of its 
work might be alive and stirring. With an eye to busi- 
ness he took in his wallet a few samples of his best wares. 
In Roxbury he met Harry Willis, who had been his fellow 
apprentice in Philadelphia, and who treated him most hos- 
pitably. And never did Goodyear need a friend more than 
now. Roxbury and its neighborhood were suffering from 


an utter collapse in the rubber trade. In this trade, as re- 
cently as 1834, there had been a boom of the wildest. 
Thousands of speculators, small and great, had plunged into 
rubber as recklessly as, in later days, other victims launched 
their all, and more, in worthless gold-mines and oil-wells. 
To-day it seems incredible that New Englanders, deemed to 
be shrewdness incarnate, should have embarked fortunes in 
producing goods liable to offensive putrefaction. But so 
it was ; and to the craze had now succeeded a panic, and 
Goodyear found nobody to look at his samples, or to listen 
to his projects. 

There was nothing for it but to return to New Haven, 
where, in the winter of 1837-38, Goodyear resumed the 
manufacture of overshoes, in improved qualities. His new 
methods of production he patented, selling licenses in con- 
nection with his acid-gas process. This gave him a decent 
income, and for a brief season his skies were cloudless. 
Good fortune now paid him a second visit, leading him to the 
very threshold of vulcanization by the friendly hand of 
Nathaniel Hayward, who had been a foreman in the Eagle 
Rubber Company at Woburn, Massachusetts. When this 
Company failed, Hayward was permitted to use its factory, 
where he produced a few rubber goods on his own account. 
In a dream, he said, he had been bidden to combine sulphur 
with gum, and expose the compound to sunshine. This 
ghostly counsel he had obeyed. His reward was rubber 
freed from all stickiness, with a surface well cured or 
tanned. At Goodyear's suggestion, Hayward patented this 
process ; when Goodyear bought the patent. He did not 
then know that he was never to do a better stroke of busi- 
ness in his life, for this purchase was the first and indis- 
pensable step toward vulcanization. That gum elastic loses 
its viscosity in a solution of sulphur in turpentine had been 
discovered in 1832, by Dr. L. Leudersdorff, a German 
chemist, who had published the fact in his " History 


of India Rubber." His knowledge came to him, not in 
a vision of darkness, but in ordinary experiments by day- 
light. He remained, however, wholly ignorant of the 
new values conferred on sulphurized rubber by high tem- 

Goodyear now felt that his feet were firmly set in the 
right track at last. When he placed thin sheets of united 
rubber and sulphur in a sunbath for hours together, he ob- 
tained almost as good a tanning as afterward from the heat 
of ovens. Then and always he marveled that solar rays, of 
quite moderate temperature, were as effective as much 
greater heats from fuels. This remarkable fact is still a 
mystery, and might richly repay investigation. Without , 
pausing to resolve this puzzle, Goodyear took advantage of 
solarization, as he called it, to produce new varieties of 
thin rubber wares. On some of these he printed news- 
papers; a few others he shaped into attractive ornaments. 
All went well so long as his fabrics were thin enough to be 
tanned from surface to surface. When his wares were 
bulky he found, to his chagrin, that, beneath their hardened 
skin, the gum was nearly as sticky as ever. 

This discovery came suddenly, and as a crushing blow. 
The Postmaster-General gave Goodyear an order for a large 
supply of mail bags. This order the inventor noised abroad, 
as it indorsed his rubber in a most influential quarter. He 
manufactured the bags with all despatch ; and, although the 
season was summer, they kept their shape and promised 
to keep it permanently. He thought it well to hang them 
up for a prolonged test before delivery at Washington. 
Then, to refresh his jaded body and mind, he took a holiday. 
When he came back, unutterable was his dismay to see his 
mailbags on the floor in malodorous decomposition. To 
give them a leathery hue he had used chromes, white lead, 
and vermilion. These admixtures he blamed for the wreck- 
age which met his eye. But if his pigments were at fault, 


more blameworthy was a curing which sank but little into 
the body of his wares. That season he had not only manu- 
factured mail bags, but life-preservers, cushions, and other 
goods. All these, as disgusting refuse, were thrown on his 
hands by their purchasers. Again the ill-starred inventor 
sank to the sorriest plight. His aged father and mother 
were sharing his home; they had to be deprived of the 
scanty comforts necessary to their advanced age. Indeed, 
at this pinch, it was not a question of comforts, but simply 
of bread and a roof. He tells us : 

" For four years I had attempted in vain to improve a 
manufacture that had entailed ruin on all concerned. It 
was generally agreed that a man who could proceed further 
in such a course fairly deserved all the distress brought 
.upon himself, and was justly debarred from sympathy. I 
was not un frequently reminded that I could at any time im- 
prove my circumstances by returning to the hardware 

In his heart's core Goodyear's faith was unshaken that 
he would yet make rubber in masses as he had long made 
it in films. He was a dreamer, but he always took care to 
dream with his feet on a rock. Now, for a few months, he 
earned an occasional dollar by making fabrics in thin rubber, 
eking out his modest expenses by recourse to pawnshops. 
Then came the day when, through utter absence of demand 
for his wares, he was obliged to cease manufacturing. Hay- 
ward, who for some time had been his assistant, had to be 
dismissed. Here, indeed, stood a hero, unsustained by the 
excitement and pomp of a battlefield, continuing a fight as 
faithfully as ever did an enlisted champion. Day after day, 
cold and hungry in a dingy room, he kept up his tests of 
new compounds, sustained as firmly as if he distinctly be- 
held what the next few months would unfold to his view. 
He says: 


" I applied myself with unabated ardor and diligence to 
detect the cause of my misfortune and, if possible, retrieve 
the lost reputation of my invention. As on former occa- 
sions, I had hardly time enough to realize the extent of 
my embarrassment, before I became intently engaged with 
another experiment, my mind buoyant with new hopes and 
expectations; which, as it afterward proved, were to be, 
for the time at least, more than realized." 

How Goodyear, at the end of years of baffled quest, at 
last alighted upon vulcanization, he narrates : 

" While on a visit to Woburn, I carried on at my dwelling- 
place some experiments to ascertain the effect of heat on 
the compound that had decomposed in the mail bags and 
other articles. I was surprised to find that a specimen, be- 
ing carelessly brought into contact with a hot stove, charred 
like leather. I endeavored to call the attention of my 
brother and others, who were present, and who were ac- 
quainted with the manufacture of gum elastic, to this re- 
markable effect, unlike any before known, since gum elastic 
always melted when exposed to a high degree of heat. 
Nobody but myself thought the charring worthy of notice. 
My words reminded my hearers of other claims I had been 
in the habit of making in behalf of other experiments. How- 
ever, I directly inferred that if the charring process could 
be stopped at the right point, it might divest the compound 
of its stickiness throughout, which would make it better 
than the native gum. Upon further trials with high tem- 
peratures I was convinced that my inference was sound. 
When I plunged India rubber into melted sulphur at great 
heats, it was always charred, never melted. I then exposed 
a similar fabric before an open fire with the same result. 
What was of supreme importance was that upon the border 
of the charred fabric there was a line, or border, which had 
escaped charring, and was perfectly cured." 

Goodyear's daughter has left this word regarding her 
father's first unwitting vulcanization: 

" As I was passing in and out of the room, I casually 
observed the little piece of gum Father was holding near 


the fire, and I noticed that he was unusually animated by 
some discovery which he had made. He nailed the gum 
outside the door in the intense cold. Next morning he 
brought it in, and held it up exultingly. It was perfectly 
flexible, as when he nailed it up. This was proof enough 
of the value of his discovery." 

His first successful treatment of sulphurized rubber took 
place in front of a fire in his bedroom. There, with the as- 
sistance of his family, he cured a square yard of rubber- 
cloth, thicker than any fabric he had hitherto treated, 
through and through. Part of it went into a cap for him- 
self, to prove lasting and pliant, while resistant to heat and 
cold. But no such moderate and changeful temperatures 
as those of a fireplace would meet the demands now clearly 
in Goodyear's vision. He required a high and steady heat, 
under strict control. At first he had put up with the oven 
where his wife baked her loaves. This oven, laden with a 
batch of rubber, he would watch far into the night, ob- 
serving how the rubber slowly hardened until six hours had 
passed. Beyond that period, he found that only harm was 
wrought. At other times he held rubber against the steam- 
ing nose of a tea-kettle. Yet again, he coated a lump of 
rubber with ashes or sand, to toast it for an hour or during 
a whole day, altering, on occasion, the proportion of sulphur 
to rubber. Expedients of manufacture which have long 
been built into a routine had, in those gloomy days, to be 
fumbled for and found by this lonely and ill-equipped ex- 
plorer. All honor to his sagacity and to his unswerving 
resolution ! 

For months after Goodyear had mastered the art and 
mystery of vulcanization, he was vexed by rubber peeling 
off the cloth on which he spread it. He tried one textile 
fabric after another, until he had experimented with every- 
thing in the market. All in vain; no cloth had a lasting 
grip. Then he simply mixed cotton fiber with rubber, and 


he had just the cloth he wanted. Goodyear deemed this 
fabric second only in importance to vulcanized rubber it- 
self. Clad in a complete panoply from his oven, he now 
walked abroad, a marked man. He tells us that an ac- 
quaintance of his was once asked : " How shall I recognize 
Goodyear, in case I happen to see him ? " The response 
was : " If you meet a man who has on an India rubber cap, 
stock, coat, vest, and shoes, with an India rubber purse 
without a cent in it, that is he ! " 

Goodyear's health, never robust, underwent a strain 
but fatal in these years of tribulation. Now that triumph 
dawned upon him, he was a martyr to dyspepsia and gout. 
But neither qualm, nor pain, could chill his ardor in attack- 
ing the obstacles which remained in his path. Often in the 
night he would arouse his wife to jot down directions for 
fresh experiments, as these suggested themselves to him 
after hours of incessant thought. When a long dictation 
came to an end, he would fall asleep through sheer ex- 
haustion. One field of rich promise at this time was the 
use of steam as a vulcanizer ; within what limits, and with 
what precautions, it behooved him to ascertain. He must 
have access to a comprehensive steam plant; and just such 
a plant his friends at Lynn, Baldwin & Haskins, placed at 
his disposal. Here for several weeks he conducted fruit- 
ful experiments. Then, well satisfied with his progress, he 
returned to Woburn, once more to attack the chief diffi- 
culties of vulcanization until, at last, they were surmounted. 
It is altogether improbable that one unaided man fused the 
first glass, or tanned the first leather, or spread the first 
sheet of paper. In all likelihood it was a long suces- 
sion of toilers who bestowed each of these great boons 
upon mankind. It is the unique distinction of Goodyear 
that he arrived at his discovery by himself. He, and no one 
else, saw the splendid prize of perfected rubber. He, all 
alone, through the struggles and defeats of years, was true 


to that vision. When Fortune, that exacting mistress, 
crowned him with laurel at last, there stood beside him 
neither partner nor lieutenant. 

Are we to call it accident that brought Goodyear first to 
his acid-gas process, and then to the supreme discovery of 
vulcanization ? On this point his convictions were clear : 

"... I was for many years seeking to accomplish this 
object, and allowed nothing to escape my notice that re- 
lated to it. Like the falling apple before Newton's gaze, it 
was suggestive of an important fact to one whose mind 
was previously prepared to draw an inference from any oc- 
currence which might favor the object of his research. 
While I admit that these discoveries of mine were not the 
result of scientific chemical investigation, I am not willing 
to admit that they were the result of what is commonly 
called accident. I claim them to be the result of the closest 
application and observation." 

In truth, golden accidents, such as befell Goodyear, hap- 
pen only to explorers who deserve them, who try both likely 
and unlikely experiments with equal care; who test new 
compounds, often with no definite expectation as to what 
properties they may reveal. They dare to employ new, and 
possibly dangerous, intensities of heat and light, of mechan- 
ical pressure, of electrical strain. They are well aware that 
at times the paths of Nature return upon themselves, in 
what seems, and only seems, to be anomaly and contradic- 
tion. They have seen a boomerang fly forward during 
one-half its sweep, and then fly backward to the feet of its 
thrower. They have observed water slowly contract dur- 
ing one degree after another of its cooling, and then quietly 
expand just before it freezes. Sulphur thickens at a mod- 
erate temperature, only to flow freely at a higher tem- 
perature. Rubber united with sulphur has a discontinuity 
even more remarkable: at first it softens with heat, but 


heighten that heat, and the compound hardens, and takes on 
new and priceless qualities. 

When Goodyear had at last perfected vulcanization in its 
essentials, he found to his sorrow that if invention is dif- 
ficult, persuasion is still more difficult. Far and wide he 
offered vulcanized rubber, much more elastic than its parent 
gum, nearly as durable as leather, unaffected by heat or 
cold. But whc would take up its manufacture and create 
its market? It was nearly two years before he could con- 
vince anybody that his rubber had value. And those two 
years renewed his familiarity with downright want. Dur- 
ing this final siege of the wolf he was offered liberal terms 
by a leading firm in Paris, Rattier & Guibal, for the ex- 
clusive use in France of his acid-gas process. This process, 
he told them, would be almost wholly supplanted by his 
new and better method, vulcanization. This offer from 
Paris, with news from other European cities where the 
manufacture of rubber was thriving, greatly cheered the 
anxious inventor. He went on producing articles of new 
design, and of a quality steadily improved. For the most 
part his profits were trifling; at times they were nothing at 
all ; so that, as often before, he came to the verge of starva- 
tion. He recites: 

" During the winter of 1839-40, during a long and severe 
snowstorm, when even those who were blessed with health 
were confined within doors, I found that my family was 
left without food or fuel. My feeling was that the face 
of nature was a fit emblem of my own condition cold and 
cheerless. But the recollection of a kind greeting received 
some time previous from Mr. O. B. Coolidge, of Woburn, 
suggested a visit to him, although he was almost a stranger. 
He resided at a distance of some miles, yet, enfeebled by 
illness as I was, I resolved to reach his house through the 
storm. In making my way against the driving snow I was 
all but exhausted. At last I reached the dwelling of Mr. 
Coolidge, and stated to him my condition and my hopes of 


success from my discovery. He received me cordially, and 
not only supplied me with a sum adequate to my immediate 
wants, but also with facilities for continuing experiments on 
a small scale." 

While awaiting, in misery, the day when the public should 
awake to what vulcanization meant for its convenience and 
gain, Goodyear did not fold his hands and bemoan his fate. 
He diligently sought to overcome the difficulties which 
clogged the detailed working of his process. From the 
outset of his labors, he had been plagued by the fermenta- 
tion of his compounds. He traced this to delay between 
mixing and baking his rubber. He was taught what the 
bread-baker had learned long before, that there must be 
despatch betwixt the kneading trough and the oven. In an- 
other quarter he was sorely perplexed. Often his goods 
showed blisters where, of course, breaks soon followed. 
He found that some blisters sprang from small quantities 
of acid which had carelessly been allowed to enter his 
turpentine. So, also, if his white lead, magnesia, or other 
admixture, carried any impurity, however slight, this, when 
heated, would generate gas and raise blisters. Another 
constant offender was moisture, giving rise to steam. As a 
final precaution, Goodyear found it necessary to lift his 
temperatures slowly and evenly, taking pains never to carry 
them unduly high. While he was thus patiently banishing 
faults from his process, he explained its great merits to list- 
less ears and averted eyes. Whatever faith he had once in- 
spired in his public seemed to have died beyond hope of 
resurrection. But neither hunger at home, nor indifference 
abroad, could swerve him from his purpose or chill his en- 
thusiasm. He tells us: 

" I felt in duty bound to beg in earnest, if need be, sooner 
than that the discovery should be lost to the world and to 
myself. . . . My inability to convince others of the truth of 


my assertions, or to bring them to comprehend the im- 
portance of the subject, gave me intense anxiety as to the 
results, and produced a state of mind such as could have 
been ill endured but for the excitement caused by efforts 
to surmount .the obstacles I met with. How I subsisted at 
this period, charity alone can tell, for it is as well to call 
things by their right names, and it is little else than charity 
when the lender looks upon what he parts with as a gift. 
The pawning or selling some relic of better days, or some 
article of necessity, was a frequent expedient. My library 
had long since disappeared, but shortly after the discovery 
of vulcanization I collected and sold at auction the school- 
books of my children, which brought me the trifling sum 
of five dollars; small as the amount was, it enabled me to 
proceed. At this step I did not hesitate. The occasion, 
and the certainty of success, warranted the measure which, 
in other circumstances, would have been sacrilege. I had 
now grounds of assurance which had never existed with 
regard to previous improvements. My discovery (of vul- 
canization) was made in winter, and its specimens did not 
stiffen by cold. Summer returned and they were not soft- 
ened by heat: there could be no danger on this score, as 
they were made at a temperature of 270. The next thing 
to be done was to manufacture specimens of sufficient size 
to satisfy others of the merit of the invention by a trial of 
the goods. At first I was unaware of the difficulties in 
the way of operating on a large scale. All my previous 
specimens were made from thin fabrics, which could be 
heated before an open fire. When a specimen of consid- 
erable dimensions was heated, it seemed impossible to avoid 
blistering, and this inflicted great loss before it was at last 

" In the spring of 1839 I had manufactured some tol- 
erably perfect specimens, heating them before an open fire 
with brushwood which the kindness of my neighbors al- 
lowed me to gather in the fields, as I was unable that sum- 
mer to supply myself with more substantial fuel. When 
these specimens were exhibited, some of my fellow towns- 
men were induced to assist me in building a brick oven, 
about six feet square, in which some comparatively large 
goods were to be baked. But before vulcanization could 
be attempted, the gum fermented, as the weather was warm, 


and there was nothing for it but to be content with a few 
specimens which had been nianufactured before an open 
fire in my own dwelling. These I wrapped up with intent 
to show them in New York. A former employee of mine, 
at that time in Boston, promised that if I would call on 
him in that city he would lend me fifty dollars*. When I 
arrived in Boston, he disappointed me. ... I strayed into 
East Cambridge, and stayed at the house of a friend who 
made me comfortable for the night. Early next morning I 
walked home, a distance of ten miles, to learn on the 
threshold that my youngest boy, two years of age, who 
was in perfect health when I left home, was then dying. 
I thanked God for being turned back to the rescue of my 
family, for a dealer had refused to keep his promise to pro- 
vide them with subsistence. 

" I then wrote a note to a sincere friend of mine in 
Boston, representing the situation of my family. I was 
confident that he would help me, and he did. Out of re- 
gard for my wife and children he sent me seven dollars, 
with a severe reprimand for not turning my attention to 
some occupation that would support my household. A 
stranger to me, who happened to be in my friend's office 
when he received my letter, sent me a barrel of flour, 
which was a source of heartfelt gratitude. I next ad- 
dressed myself to a brother-in-law, Mr. William DeForest, 
from whom I obtained fifty dollars. This enabled me to 
go to New York, and lay my project before Mr. William 
Rider, who agreed to furnish capital for manufacture on 
joint account. To the firmness and perseverance of this 
friend, and to the skill and assiduity of his brother, Mr. 
Emory Rider, even more than to their pecuniary aid, am I 
indebted for practical success. This success had barely 
time to receive fair public demonstration when Mr. Will- 
iam Rider failed, leaving me once more without resources. 

" In the fall of 1841," continues Goodyear, "before Mr. 
Rider's failure, I commenced operations at Springfield, 
Massachusetts, having a short time before manufactured 
some rubber compound in sheets, uniformly heated. They 
were passed through a heated cast-iron trough. At this 
time I invented the shirred or corrugated goods which after- 
ward became famous, both on account of their intrinsic 
merit, and through the many law.suits to which they gave 


rise. Some elegant ribbons which I shirred, attracted the 
attention of Mr. William DeForest, who brought them to 
public notice and favor. . . . He furnished the capital for 
their manufacture, so that I was able to proceed with my 
improvements in the vulcanizing process." * 

One morning, while Goodyear was baking a batch of rub- 
ber, a bailiff called to demand the immediate payment of a 
considerable debt. In default of compliance, Goodyear was 
escorted to jail. Often before he had been led to prison, 
but now, with commercial success almost within his grasp, 
his resentment was keen. His long maintained opposition 
to bankruptcy at last gave way: he accepted its relief, 
determined that his merciless creditors should badger him 
no more. In a few months the tide of his fortunes turned, 
and he was receiving a goodly revenue from his licenses. 
At once he paid his debts to the last penny, disbursing in 
all $35,000. For a brief season he now entered a quiet 
sea and enjoyed fair weather. As he recalled the storms 
and stresses now receding into the past, he was philosopher 
enough to say : 

" Although sometimes disheartened by the apparent loss 
of time from hindrances, I have, on the whole, good reason 
to be reconciled to these temporary delays, being well aware 
that the law of necessity, under one form or other, is the 
only one under which invention will thrive or accomplish 
much. Millions might have been spent without -effecting 
anything in comparison with what has been done. Money 
is indispensable for the perfecting of improvements, but it 
is trial and necessity chiefly that are effectual in bringing 
hidden things to light. In other words, however indispen- 
sable money may be to carry out an enterprise or perfect the 

* Shirring deserves a word of description. A parallel series of thin 
rubber cords, while stretched, are interwoven in a warp of cotton or 
silk. As the fabric leaves its loom , the rubber is allowed to contract. 
In so doing it produces the puckering effect called ilhirring. 


improvements of an inventor, it will avail but little in bring- 
ing to light that which is unknown, especially where the sub- 
ject cannot be approached by any known laws of science." 

As the qualities of vulcanized rubber unfolded themselves 
under the eager tests of Goodyear, his rosiest dreams were 
far outsped. He says : 

" I did not expect materially to improve upon the good 
qualities of the original gum. My object in experiment was 
limited to restoring gum to its original state, and even that 
I almost despaired of. My success in imparting to gum 
elastic new and valuable properties, and at the same time 
retaining all the useful qualities it had at first, has not 
ceased to surprise mankind wherever it has become known. 
This substance, aside from the difficulty of treating it 
chemically, was in its native state as wonderful and mys- 
terious as any in nature, and is rendered yet more won- 
derful by the change wrought in vulcanization. This 
change may be compared to that wrought in a perishable 
skin or hide by tanning, which converts it into a beautiful 
kid or substantial leather; or, to that wrought when iron 
is baked with carbon, and issues as steel. This comparison 
with steel holds good, not only as to result, but also as to 
method, except that, instead of carbon, sulphur is employed. 
In both cases a high temperature is required. . . . From the 
vulcanizing oven is removed an article fundamentally 
changed in its properties as contrasted with its ingredients. 
The most powerful solvents of gum elastic affect it but 
slightly, or not at all. Gum elastic melts at a comparatively 
moderate heat, and cracks with the ordinary cold of a win- 
ter day. Vulcanized rubber is indifferent to extremes of 
both heat and cold. My process works no mere improve- 
ment of a substance, but, in fact, produces a material 
wholly new. The durability imparted to gum elastic by 
vulcanization not only improves it for its own peculiar and 
legitimate uses, but also renders it available for a variety 
of new purposes never before imagined. It may appear ab- 
surd to compare the lasting quality of rubber with that of 
wood and metal, yet because rubber resists corrosion and 
decay, it is far preferable to oak or iron, as experience 


proves. Nitric acid quickly dissolves iron, copper, and 
brass, and is without effect on rubber. Without injury a 
rubber vessel holds potash ; and potash promptly destroys 
leather and wood. Many other substances are hurt or 
ruined by water; rubber is waterproof. So is its parent, 
gum elastic, a fact turned to account long before vulcani- 
zation." * ^ 

In 1848, Goodyear, with his unfailing skill, began making 
hollow balls and similar goods. Against a containing mold, 
he forced a layer of rubber by air slightly compressed. Of 

*Gum elastic is not the only substance which is greatly exalted in 
value by simple treatment. A parallel discovery to vulcanization 
was that of John Mercer in 1850. This English chemist and dyer 
found that cotton fabrics bathed in a solution of sulphuric acid, or 
caustic soda, were almost doubled in strength. He proved, also, 
that paper and linen are improved in the same way by like immer- 
sion. His method, familiar as mercerization, to-day produces many 
cotton textiles which resemble silk, and also the papers, like parch- 
ment, used to cover jars of preserved fruit, and to wrap the costlier 
kinds of crackers and sweets. 

Mercer's original discovery, like Goodyear's, was quite uninten- 
tional. He thought that an alkaline solution passed through a thick 
cotton filter would be weakened. To test this supposition he made 
a filter from six folds of fine, strong bleached cotton fabric pressed 
thrice through a calender to make it compact. On this filter he 
poured a caustic soda solution of 60 on the Twaddell scale. The 
filtration was very slow, and it fulfilled Mercer's expectation: the 
solution as it lef*t the cotton showed a strength of but 53 on the 
Twaddell scale. And now John Mercer, as an observer, came for- 
ward as of kindred to Charles Goodyear. He noticed that the cotton 
filter had undergone remarkable changes; it had become semi-trans- 
parent, and had gained thickness at the expense of length and 
breadth. Most important of all, a weight of 22 pounds was now 
needed to break off a piece of mercerized cloth, as compared with 
the 13 pounds which had sufficed before treatment. In dyeing his 
new fabrics, Mercer found that their receptivity of color had been 
greatly increased. Strange to say, he found that heat checked the 
mercerizing process; at 212 Fahrenheit, it wholly ceased. This in 
contrast to the strength added to rubber at temperatures gradually 
heightened to 270. 


equal value were the thin veneers he now vulcanized be- 
tween hot plates. But it was in compounding, not in de- 
tails of manipulation, that he took his next great stride. 
His brother Nelson discovered that to increase the percent- 
age of sulphur added hardness to a compound. Charles 
Goodyear, following up this discovery, soon created a di- 
versity of products quite as useful as soft rubber, and un- 
like soft rubber in not being liable to slow oxidation, with 
its eventual brittleness and decay. One brand of his hard 
rubber replaced bone and whalebone ; another kind super- 
seded ivory and horn. Goodyear shrewdly pointed out that, 
in most cases, these new rubbers could be used instead of 
tusks and whale fibers, steadily growing scarcer and dearer. 
The specially tough varieties of hard rubber known as 
ebonite and vulcanite, have created an important field for 
themselves. They may be turned in a lathe, or carved 
by steel tools, as if ebony or boxwood, for cabinet-work. 
As they are impervious to water, uncorroded by acids, and 
non-conductors of electricity, they afford electrical insula- 
tors of unapproached quality, and form indispensable parts 
of the best telegraphic and telephonic instruments. These 
hard rubbers, almost metallic in appearance, remind us that 
at first Goodyear called his wares " metallic gum elastic/' 
supposing their sulphur to be as metallic as their lead. Cop- 
per has often been used by portrait painters instead of can- 
vas or wood, and Goodyear determined that hard rubber 
should be tested for a like purpose. Accordingly he had 
a series of family portraits executed on hard rubber, and 
with gratifying results, as this material is unaffected by 
dampness or wide fluctuations of temperature, and is liable 
neither to crack, warp, nor decay. One of these pictures, a 
portrait of himself, is reproduced for this chapter. It was 
executed in Paris, in 1855, by George P. A. Healy. Rubber, 
hard or soft, is prepared by vulcanization a word not 
coined by Goodyear. James Brockedon, a partner of Mac- 


intosh, in the manufacture of raincoats, with the Vulcan of 
mythology in mind, callecl the Goodyear process " vulcani- 
zation." This term has taken firm root in the English 

To understand how much art and science owe to Good- 
year, let us place side by side a piece of vulcanized rubber, 
and a bit of gum elastic, such as his process begins with. 
Except for its dinginess, the gum reminds us of wheaten 
dough. Both gum and dough are elastic at common tem- 
peratures; and both become brittle in wintry air. Two 
joined lumps of dough adhere so firmly that they cannot be 
separated; just so with gum. As new and golden qualities 
appear in a baked loaf, unpromised in the parent paste, 
so gum, properly compounded and heated, blossoms into a 
new wealth of properties not foretold in the crude juice 
of a rubber plant. Vulcanized rubber is much more elastic 
than gum. When free from adulteration it is much tougher, 
so that it forms durable gloves and shoes, belts or tires. 
Because born at a temperature of 270 or so, it can bear all 
heats not exceeding these extremes. Happily, it is just as 
indifferent to cold ; gum, in touching ice, loses its elasticity ; 
when vulcanized, it is as flexible as ever. To bring rubber 
to brittleness demands the cold of liquid air, 312 below 
the zero of Fahrenheit. Because the stickiness of gum has 
vanished in the oven, it may be kept as clean as glass. Be- 
fore it is heated, a rubber compound is perfectly plastic, 
so that it may be molded and modeled as if wax. This 
makes the manufacture of its shoes and garments as simple 
as the pasting together of their paper patterns. To round 
out its circle of adaptability, rubber lends itself to every art 
of the printer. It takes perfect impressions from steel and 
copper plates, from type and stone; and, unlike paper, it 
asks for no preliminary dampening. It is easily bronzed, 
gilded, or japanned. It readily combines with pigments, es- 
pecially with lead oxides, which shorten the time needed for 


baking. Last of all, as Goodyear remarked, it is a capital 
electrical insulator. Since his time, electricity has expanded 
its empire a thousandfold, so that rubber to-day covers 
millions of wires bringing currents into offices, factories, 
and homes, and helps to build, in even greater number, 
dynamos and motors, telephones and sounders, in designs 
all but faultless, of efficiencies nearly perfect. 

Of late years, the manufacture of rubber has become, for 
the most part, highly specialized. A few large concerns 
produce a large variety of wares which may demand as many 
as four hundred formulas in their preparation. The period 
required for heating each article is determined, and the right 
temperature is maintained with precision. Steam, because 
easily regulated, is employed to heat the ovens: its pres- 
sure may reach 600 pounds to the square inch. Rubber, 
when prepared and vulcanized with the utmost care, may 
retain its original excellence for ten years. 

To produce artificial rubber has long been the aim of lead- 
ing chemists. In 1892 Professor William Tilden derived 
isoprene, a colorless liquid resembling benzine, from tur- 
pentine. A few weeks afterward he noticed that a bottle 
of isoprene had spontaneously formed several lumps of 
rubber. Isoprene and rubber are alike in the number and 
variety of their atoms ; they differ solely in the architecture 
which unites these atoms as molecules. Professor Tilden 
found that his artificial rubber, like the natural product, 
consisted of two substances, one of which was more soluble 
in benzine or carbon bisulphide than the other. Yet more : 
this artificial product entered into combination with sulphur, 
forming a tough, elastic compound. As striking was a dis- 
covery by Dr. F. E. Matthews who, in July, 1910, sealed up 
isoprene and sodium in a tube. In the course of the next 
month he observed that the liquid had become viscid, and 
contained a little rubber of prime quality. Sodium thus 
enters upon a new career as an important means of trans- 


formation. Other modes of converting isoprene into rub- 
ber have been discovered by Dr. Fritz Hofmann and Pro- 
fessor Karl Harries ; and researchers of distinction are 
now endeavoring to cheapen isoprene as a basis of manu- 
facture. Tires for motor-cars molded from artificial rub- 
ber have worn as well as if Para rubber: a test so se- 
vere is putting planters on their mettle. Their hope is that, 
by improved and enlarged cultivation, they may face their 
chemical rivals as successfully as have the planters of 
camphor trees. 

The elasticity which so strongly characterizes rubber is 
shared, in minor degrees, by many other substances, a few of 
them easily produced by the chemist. A white substitute for 
rubber is obtained by stirring sulphur chloride into linseed, 
or other fatty oil, mixed with petroleum spirit. After a few 
minutes' thorough stirring, the oil thickens, and becomes a 
somewhat elastic mass. A similar substance, dark in color, 
is derived from a vegetable oil heated to about 380 Fahren- 
heit, when flowers of sulphur are added. As the mixture 
thickens, it develops elasticity. But every substitute for 
rubber is extensible in only a comparatively- slight degree. 
In this chief quality, rubber and its next of kin stand far 
apart, reminding us of the immense disparity in magnetism 
between iron and its nearest relation in the magnetic fam- 
ily, nickel. 

Of late years, the art of blending rubber with cheaper 
substances has been highly developed. Here as in every 
other field of this manufacture, the pioneer was Goodyear 
himself. He mixed rubber with many oils, with carbon 
from coal tar, with earths, metallic oxides, metals, and ores 
finely pulverized. He found that a little lampblack in a 
compound conferred resistance to wind and weather. To 
produce articles specially light, he strewed sawdust and 
powdered cork into his kettles. Let him tell how he mixed 
and treated his compounds : 


" Sulphur is sometimes mixed with the gum in the process 
of crushing or grinding, in the proportion of half an ounce 
of sulphur to a pound of gum. At other times it is dusted 
as flour upon the goods before they are placed in the 
heater; this is commonly done when the mixture contains 
white lead, or when the coat of gum is thin and "the goods 
light. . . . Another mode is to generate sulphurous gas in 
the heater containing the goods.,. . . When fabrics thinly 
coated with rubber are taken from the spreading machine, 
they are as adhesive as the native gum, and great care and 
skill are required to prevent their surfaces adhering to- 
gether. As a precaution, the sheets are rolled up in cloth, 
or dusted with flour. The articles to be manufactured are 
first cut out from a sheet, their seams are washed clean 
from flour, and the cleansed parts are brought into contact 
and pressed either by the fingers or a small band roller, 
so as to unite them firmly. Then the article is ready to be 
vulcanized. Some articles, such as shirred goods, air pil- 
lows, and the like, are cemented. Other articles, shaped 
without cloths, require to be put on forms or lasts, or into 
molds or must be otherwise supported. This prevents 
change of shape, for the first effect of heat is to soften the 
rubber compound; only afterward does hardening take 
place. . . . The ovens are heated either by steam or hot 
air. Steam is not used in the cases where it causes dis- 
coloration. For car and other springs, drapery, stayed com- 
pounds, and much else, steam is preferred. Vulcanization 
usually requires four to six hours, during which the tem- 
perature is gradually raised from about 250 to 270 Fahr- 
enheit. Variations in temperature and in time of exposure 
follow upon diversity in the thickness of goods, and also 
turn upon the kind of compound employed." 

While Goodyear was applying his rubber to art and in- 
dustry, in fields for the most part profitable, he was not to 
be lured into manufacturing as a vocation. He maintained 
his family in comfort, and then devoted the remainder of 
his income to experiment. His notebook, a priceless heir- 
loom to his children, shows how fruitful and sweeping were 
his designs. His sketches, drawn with skill and spirit, 


are certainly divergent enough. Here are anchor-buoys and 
sails, hammocks and umbrellas, overshoes for horses to 
wear on icy pavements, tarpaulins and tents, printers' rolls 
and engine packing, self-inflating beds and baptismal pants, 
floor-mats and baby- jumpers. He offers us a hat with a 
receptacle for papers in its crown, secured by a rubber cord. 
To a traveler on shipboard he presents a waistcoat, easily 
distended with air in case of shipwreck. 

Goodyear strangely overlooked an important application 
of rubber, to the tires of vehicles, as invented and patented 
in 1845, by Robert William Thomson, an Englishman, who 
took pains to exhibit his wheels in America as well as at 
home. To-day a leading branch of the rubber industry fur- 
nishes tires, solid or pneumatic, to wagons and carriages, to 
bicycles and motor-cars. Thomson's tires came out just 
forty years too soon for acceptance. As devised in 1845, 
they are essentially the tires rolling at this hour through the 
Main Streets and Broadways of America. Thomson, to 
give him the credit long unduly withheld from him, was 
the worthiest of all the successors of that wonderful man 
who first made a wheel, for Thomson gave the wheel a new 
efficiency by bidding it tread upon air. His tire was a hol- 
low belt of India rubber, inflated with air by a condenser 
from which the pump of to-day is lineally descended. His 
belt was formed of several thicknesses of rubber, soaked and 
cemented in dissolved rubber, with careful vulcanization 
of the tube as a whole. What attracted most attention in his 
tires was their width of five inches. Thomson had skill as 
well as ingenuity; from the first his tires proved sound 
and durable. One set of them ran twelve hundred miles 
without distress. But these " aerial wheels " excited 
only the Oh's and Ah's of empty wonder; they were 
regarded as mere freaks of invention, and then quite 

About 1868, tires of solid rubber began to encircle the 


wheels of heavy traction engines in England. Soon after- 
ward they appeared on the wheels of chairs for invalids, and 
trucks for baggage and freight. When velocipedes came in, 
their vogue was stimulated by the use of rubber tires ; thence 
they passed to the supplanters of velocipedes, bicycles and 
tricycles. A destiny of renown attended a tricycle owned 
by a lad of Belfast, who, wishing to outrun his comrades, 
appealed for aid to his father, John Boyd Dunlop, a vet- 
erinary surgeon. Mr. Dunlop came to his son's assistance 
most memorably. He took three pieces of stout rubber 
tubing, welded each into a circle, inflated this circle with 
air from a pump to form a tire duly fastened with tape to a 
wheel of the tricycle. Forthwith that machine outstripped 
every rival on the ground. Dunlop patented his invention, 
only to find that he had been anticipated forty-five years 
before by Thomson. But Dunlop saw that, while he was 
in the nick of time, Thomson had been nearly half a cen- 
tury too early. Dunlop and his friends at once formed a 
joint-stock company, and possessed themselves of patents 
for clinchers and other indispensable auxiliaries. Then they 
proceeded to make and market their tires with so much skill 
and address that soon they were masters of a huge busi- 
ness, with branches throughout the world. 

Since 1898, motor-cars have been perfected, and are now 
adapted to touring, to the transportation of passengers and 
freight, in scores of excellent models. Despite recurrent 
competition from leather, wood, or steel, rubber for tires 
holds the field. In many cases it is armored with leather, 
and usually this leather bears studs of steel. The prefer- 
ence accorded to rubber is justly earned. In resilience it far 
outlives leather, its most formidable rival ; it drinks, as the 
French say, a stone which would perceptibly lift a leather 
tire, and severely jar a tire of wood or steel. Motor-car 
tires become hot at high speeds, so, to avoid further vul- 
canization, they contain but little free sulphur. A dusty 


bloom on a tire betokens its presence. Much ingenuity has 
been exercised upon sectional tires, and upon chains in- 
tended to bite the dust. Many heavy freight wagons bear 
tires of solid rubber in twins, each wheel having two distinct 
series of rubber pads or paws which surround it. Each 
circle has, let us suppose, thirty intervals without rubber; 
opposite each interval on the adjoining circle appears a 
rubber paw. A wheel thus armed runs better than if its 
rubber were disposed in one uniform circle. A further ad- 
vantage is that, if a paw becomes worn or damaged, it is 
easily and cheaply replaced, whereas a pneumatic tire would 
need costly repairs. 

Good tires are never made of pure rubber, but of rubber 
combined with such metallic oxides as produce a compound 
more tough and durable. But in many wares the admix- 
tures of cheap ingredients with rubber are adulterants and 
nothing else. Not only mechanical mixture with rubber, 
but the chemistry of vulcanization has been closely studied 
of late years. For boots, shoes, and raincoats, three per 
cent, of sulphur is added to rubber ; of this quantity two 
per cent, combines, leaving one per cent. free. Vulcaniza- 
tion takes place only when there is a little sulphur in ex- 
cess. For mechanical goods and mold work, as much as 
six to ten per cent, of sulphur is admixed; in vulcanites 
and other hard goods, the proportion becomes one-half. For 
all that many diverse processes, with and without heat, have 
sought to supplant Goodyear's method, his practice to-day 
is but little departed from. That remarkable man struck 
the bull's-eye of his target; nothing but its outer circles 
remain for his successors. 

Goodyear was not a mere draftsman, to sketch a design 
and go no further. When he had outlined a lifeboat and 
its sail, for instance, he knew no rest until that boat was 
launched and its sail unfurled. His workshop afforded him 
facilities but scant as compared with those of the well- 


appointed factories now vulcanizing his wares, so he sought 
to lay one of these concerns under contribution. From 
among them he chose the Naugatuck Company of Connec- 
ticut, directed by personal friends, manufacturing on a vast 
scale elastics for shoes, suspenders, and the like. It was 
agreed that in their mixing-rooms and ovens Goodyear 
should have new compounds tested and new articles pro- 
duced. But the inventor found it so difficult to have his 
instructions carried out, that he soon abandoned the at- 
tempt. In experiences of this kind, he discovered how wide 
a gulf divides manufacturers from researchers. Often 
when he broached a fresh project or design to a man of 
business, he met with the remonstrance : " Why bother to 
test novelties when so many wares devised long ago enjoy 
a profitable demand ? " 

Goodyear's first invention in rubber was an improved 
valve for a life-preserver. This, it will be remembered, he 
offered to the New York agent of the Roxbury Company, 
whose approval of his ingenuity heartened him greatly. 
From the hour when first he examined a life-preserver, 
until the close of his life, nothing molded of rubber was 
oftener in Goodyear's mind than his devices for safety at 
sea. He gave months to designing and testing life-pre- 
servers shaped like accordions, and in other ingenious forms. 
He wished that every table and chair, cushion and foot- 
stool, bolster and pillow, aboard ship, should be hollow and 
instantly inflatable, to insure escape from peril. He be- 
lieved the constant loss of life at sea to be mainly due to 
sheer neglect. Regarding his devices he wrote : 

" A proper investigation and public trial of the proposed 
articles will demonstrate that there is no real necessity for 
such constant loss of life by mariners as now occurs. 
Must men continue to be drowned because their fathers 
were ? Must treasures continue to go to the bottom of the 
deep because there are offices where they can be insured? 



[Drawn by Charles Goodyear.] 



[Drawn by Charles Goodyear.] 


The loss to the world is none the less on that account, 
and such a state of things need not, and ought not, to exist." 

In his endeavor to safeguard the mariner, Goodyear was 
thwarted less by declared opposition than by stolid indiffer- 
ence. Nobody but himself took to heart the drownings 
which year by year he summed up with grief and indigna- 
tion. He marveled that millions of pairs of galoshes and 
suspenders should be sold every twelvemonth, and seldom a 
swimmer's belt, and never a rubber lifeboat. He began to 
see how much the art of the merchant is needed to create 
a market for the inventor, whose wares, without an adroit 
and persistent canvass, may utterly miss public favor. Re- 
viewing these and other obstacles to success, Goodyear said, 
toward the close of his volume on " Gum Elastic": 

". . . It is a mistaken notion that an invention consists in 
the first vague idea of it. It takes far more than that to en- 
title one to the merit of an invention, for, between the bare 
conception of an idea, and the demonstration of the prac- 
ticability and utility of the thing conceived, there is almost 
always a vast amount of labor to be performed, time and 
money to be spent, and innumerable difficulties and preju- 
dices to be encountered, before the work is accomplished. 
An individual who performs all that is necessary in these 
ways to bring an improvement to the notice of the public, 
and causes them to appreciate and understand it by dint of 
perseverance, is in some countries considered the author 
of an invention, even though the first idea did not originate^ 
with him. 

" It is often repeated that ' necessity is the mother of 
invention.' It may with equal truth be said that inventors 
are the children of misfortune and want. Probably no 
class of the community, in any country, receive a smaller 
compensation for their labors than do inventors. A volume 
might be written on the peculiar difficulties and embarrass- 
ments to which they are subject, but the whole may be 
summed up in a few words, as a general rule their labors 
begin, continue, and end in ' necessity.' Their hard fortune 


often calls forth the expression of pity and compassion from 
the public ; at the same time, there are too many ever ready 
to encroach upon their inventions. However valuable and 
important an improvement may be, it is seldom that the 
rightful owners are benefited by it. There is, however, in 
such cases one alleviating and consoling reflection to well- 
disciplined minds, success has crowned their attempt, and 
they can leave the world better off for having lived in it. 
In most cases an inventor at first knows little of the dif- 
ficulties he has to encounter. His attempts may be foreign 
to his occupation, obliging him to resort to a mechanic or a 
machinist for the various parts of the thing he designs. He 
usually finds it the most difficult of all tasks to persuade 
mechanics to perform a novel task whose utility they do not 
perceive. Often a well-conceived plan comes to failure, be- 
cause wrong materials are chosen, or from a defect or over- 
sight in construction. Defeat only confirms the projector in 
his conviction that he is right ; he sees in his mind's eye his 
invention working as much to the admiration of others as 
to that of himself. So he renews his attempts until the 
machine does all he expected it to do. But he has little 
idea how much remains to be done to make his invention 
profitable. He has probably exhausted his own resources 
and the resources and patience of his friends in completing 
his devices; he has not the means needed to manufacture 
the article, and this deprives him of all reward for his in- 
genuity and toil. 

" He takes out letters-patent for his invention, which he 
counts as property, but which amount chiefly to a permis- 
sion by government to fight his own battles. Patents are 
commonly evaded, and the patent law is so ineffectual for 
their protection, that the public does not value them much, 
nor can they be expected to do so, for in too many cases 
the purchase of a patent is equivalent to the purchase of a 
lawsuit. If the discovery is of unlimited importance and 
universal application, the danger of its loss by the inventor 
is proportioned to its utility and importance. There will 
be found persons in every community unprincipled enough 
to pirate the invention, especially if they can make some 
slight alteration and evasion of it. The community cannot 
always be expected to understand the merits of the cause; 
or, if they do, since competition has given the thing they 


want at less cost, they are apt to encourage encroachments 
for an interested reason. The thing, they say, is so simple 
that any one would have thought of it, and no one is en- 
titled to the monopoly of thought. It would be certainly 
more just to say that the 'inventor should be rewarded on 
that very account, because his improvement is simple and, 
therefore, practical, avoiding the great error in most at- 
tempts at improvements, that of complication and mystery." 

These remarks plainly tell us that Goodyear's experience, 
as a patentee had been unfortunate. In truth, he was 
dilatory in seeking such protection as patents might grant 
him. He always wished to incorporate in his claims the 
advances in method which constantly arose under his 
hands. And he found that every new step but broadened 
the horizon for fresh experiment and research. Thus it 
came about that his American patent was dated June 15, 
1844, just five years after his discovery of vulcanization. 
This delay opened the door to a shrewd rival in England. 
For twenty years prior to Goodyear's discovery, Macintosh 
& Company, of London, had manufactured rainproof coats 
of gum elastic, using naphtha as a solvent. A partner in 
this firm, Thomas Hancock, received from America a piece 
of vulcanized rubber, unaccompanied by any information 
as to how it had been produced. Its odor, however, be- 
trayed the presence of sulphur. Mr. Hancock had long 
been combining sulphur and rubber in his own experiments : 
his next steps are recalled in his " History of India Rub- 
ber Manufactures " : 

" I found that when submitting the compounds contain- 
ing sulphur to heat it was necessary, after ascertaining the 
temperatures that suited any compoufid, to find also the 
period of exposure to heat that produced the best result. 
Until I noticed this necessity I was often sadly perplexed, as 
the same compounds exposed to the same temperature were 
sometimes good and sometimes bad in practice; the varia- 


tion in time being often from one hour to between six and 
seven hours, or even more. All the way through these ex- 
periments for producing the 'change' (vulcanization) I 
had no other guide, of course, than to watch for any promis- 
ing appearance in any of the scraps and to improve upon 
them. But I now know I was frequently thwarted by my 
want of information as to what caused the differences in 
appearance, and particularly in regard to the temperature 
I employed, which was somewhat at random, knowing how 
freely I could use it, within certain limits, without injury. 

" A thought now occurred to me that in the end proved 
extremely valuable. Revolving in my mind some of the 
effects produced by the high degree of heat I had employed 
in making solutions of rubber and sulphur, in oil of turpen- 
tine, it occurred to me that, as the melting-point of sulphur 
is only about 240, which I knew would not be injurious to 
rubber, it would be well to see what would ensue on im- 
mersing a slip of sheet rubber in sulphur at its lowest melt- 
ing-point. I accordingly melted some sulphur in an iron 
vessel, and immersed in it some slips of cut sheet rubber 
about half an inch wide and one-sixteenth of an inch thick. 
After they had been immersed for some time I examined 
them, and found that the surface had assumed a yellowish- 
tan color. I immersed them again. On withdrawing them 
the second time I cut one of them across with a wet knife, 
and found that the rubber was tinged of this tan color to a 
considerable depth. I immersed them again. On the third 
examination I found that the tan color had quite penetrated 
through the slip. This was strong evidence that the rubber 
had freely absorbed the sulphur, and I fully expected to find 
these slips ' changed.' In this I was greatly disappointed, 
for, on applying the tests, I found that not the least ' chang- 
ing ' effect had been produced. I now replaced them and 
raised the temperature of the sulphur and allowed them to 
remain immersed for a considerable time. On the fourth 
withdrawal I found to my great satisfaction that one slip of 
the rubber was perfectly ' changed,' retaining the same tan 
color throughout. The other slips remained in the sulphur 
while the examination was going on, and on withdrawing 
them I found the lowermost, the slip nearest the fire, turn- 
ing black and becoming hard and horny, thus at once in- 
dubitably opening to me the true source and process of 


producing the ' change ' in all its pure and pristine sim- 

Hancock, having thus arrived at the vulcanization of sur- 
faces by immersing gum elastic in molten sulphur, took out 
a patent in England on November 21, 1843. It was not 
until January 30, 1844, that Goodyear, through his agent, 
William Newton, patented his method in England. On the 
8th of the same month, this agent secured a patent in 

By this lack of promptitude as a patentee, Goodyear lost 
severely. And yet he was a man of much shrewdness, as 
we may observe in the publicity which he managed to give 
his wares. In 1849, he heard that two years later London 
would hold an International Exhibition; he resolved that 
his display should be one of the most striking in the Crystal 
Palace, and it was. He received one of the five council 
medals which came to the United States. Especially com- 
mended by the official judges was his array of hard-rubber 
ware, much of it exquisite in design. 

In August of the next year, 1852, Goodyear's case against 
Horace H. Day, an infringer of his patents, came before 
the United States Circuit Court, at Trenton, New Jersey. 
Daniel Webster, as attorney for the prosecution, argued this 
as his last case, with all his wonted eloquence and power. 
He won the verdict, receiving as his fee $10,000. In the 
course of his plea, the great lawyer said: 

" It is well known that the articles manufactured of gum 
elastic up to the year 1834 were entirely useless. If they 
were exposed to the sun, they became sticky; you could 
not separate them after their surfaces came in contact ; and 
if exposed to the cold, they became hard and rigid. I well 
remember that I had some experience in this matter myself. 
A friend in New York sent me a very fine cloak in India 
rubber, and a hat of the same material. I did not suc- 
ceed very well with them. I took the cloak one day and 


set it out in the cold. It stood very well by itself. I sur- 
mounted it with the hat, and many persons passing by sup- 
posed they saw standing by the porch, the Farmer of Marsh- 

Mr. Webster continued : 

" In January, 1844, Mr. Goodyear went to Naugatuck, in 
Connecticut, and started a factory. It would be painful 
to speak of his extreme want the destitution of his fam- 
ily, half clad, he picking up with his own hands little billets 
of wood from the wayside, to warm the household suffer- 
ing reproach not harsh, for no one would bestow that 
upon him receiving indignation and ridicule from his 
friends. Here is a letter of his written in a good spirit and 
cheerful vein, but particularly affecting from that circum- 
stance : 

" ' DEBTORS' PRISON, BOSTON, April 21, 1840. 

" ' GENTLEMEN I have the pleasure to invite you to call 
and see me at my lodgings, and to communicate with my 
family, and possibly to establish an India Rubber Factory 
for myself, on the spot. Do not fail to call on the receipt 
of this, as I feel some anxiety on account of my family. 
My father will probably arrange my affairs in relation to 
this Hotel, which, after all, is perhaps as good a resting- 
place as any on this side of the grave, 
"'Yours truly, 


Later in his plea, Mr. Webster said : 

" I ask again if there is anybody else than Goodyear who 
made this invention, who is he? Is the discovery so plain 
that it might have come about by accident? It is likely to 
work important changes in the arts everywhere. It in- 
troduces quite a new material into the arts, that material 
being nothing less than elastic metal. It is hard like metal, 
and elastic as pure gum elastic. Why, that is as great 
and momentous a phenomenon occurring to men in the 


progress of their knowledge, as it would be for a man to 
show that iron and gold could remain iron and gold, and yet 
become elastic like India rubber. Now, this fact cannot 
be denied ; it cannot be discredited ; it cannot be kept out 
of sight; somebody has made this invention. That is cer- 
tain. Who is he? Mr. Hancock has been referred to. 
But he expressly acknowledges Goodyear to be the first 
inventor. I say that there is not in the world a human 
being that can stand up, and say that it is his invention, ex- 
cept the man who is sitting at that table, Charles Goodyear." 

When Mr. Webster had won his case, Goodyear, accom- 
panied by his family, took passage to Europe. His claims 
as a patentee in America were greatly strengthened by the 
decision at Trenton ; he crossed the Atlantic in the interests 
of his European rights, and to promote the manufactures 
which bore his name throughout Europe. In London he 
was called upon by Mr. Hancock's partner, Macintosh, 
the famous manufacturer of raincoats, who offered him one- 
half the Hancock patent to relinquish a suit for infringe- 
ment. This offer Goodyear declined, believing that equity 
was on his side; but the legal verdict went against him. 

Mrs. Goodyear had left America in poor health ; to her 
husband's sore affliction, her symptoms grew steadily worse. 
In March, 1853, she passed away. During the summer of 
1854, Goodyear was united in marriage to Miss Fanny 
Wardell, of London, who survived him. To this union 
three children were born. Of these the only survivor is a 
daughter, Fanny, the wife of Dr. Emil Deckert, of the 
University of Frankfort-on-the-Main. 

In 1855, Paris, to emulate the example of London, held 
an international exposition on a scale surpassing that of the 
British metropolis. Goodyear contributed a palatial booth, 
which, with its contents, cost him fifty thousand dollars, 
assembling every product of vulcanized rubber then known. 
His outlay was extravagant, and, joined to the depredations 
of an agent, his purse was emptied of its last dollar. He 


was unable to pay his debts, and was locked up in Clichy 
prison, near Paris. Toward the close of December he se- 
cured release, and at once posted to England to bring to 
bay certain audacious infringers. He had scarcely left his 
steamer when he was arrested on a claim originating in 
France. His friends proffered bail. He firmly declined 
bail, contending that the claim was fraudulent. This fact 
he clearly proved in court, when he was at once honorably 

"" All this strife, legal and financial, came upon a man who 
had, for years, suffered disabling infirmity. With the 
shadow of death upon his brow, Goodyear took to his bed. 
He bade his family good-by, and sent farewells to his 
friends. His wife's skilful nursing led to a measurable re- 
turn of strength. Early in April, 1856, he was able to 
travel to Bath, where he remained until May, 1858, when 
he sailed for New York. His stay in Bath was clouded by 
embarrassment. Bad health prevented his giving proper 
attention to his business, so that necessity again brought 
him into the clutches of usurers. To pay his way he had 
to pawn his wife's jewelry, and his own. Meanwhile his 
interests in America had fallen into confusion through 
neglect. Some of his licensees utterly ignored their con- 
tracts. To cap the climax, his trusted attorney embezzled 
a large sum from him. Once more in America, Goodyear's 
affairs were brought into something like order, and his 
health improved a little. Most justly his patent, which ex- 
pired in 1858, was renewed for seven years, in view of the 
wholly inadequate returns it had yielded him. With the 
prospect of a respectable income from his licenses, Good- 
year decided to make his home in Washington, where he 
hoped for peace and comfort in what remained to him of 
life. True to his chief purpose as an inventor, he fitted 
up in his house a large tank for tests of models of life-saving 
craft. One morning, while occupied with these models, 


word came from Connecticut that his daughter was dying. 
That he might clasp her hand in farewell, Goodyear started 
northward at once. On his way he was obliged, through 
sheer exhaustion, to pause in New York, taking quarters at 
the Fifth Avenue Hotel. There he learned of his daughter's 
death. That he should have been absent in her last hours 
was a final blow to this loving father. His symptoms every 
hour grew more alarming, and soon all hope was at an end. 
Early on Sunday morning. July I, 1860, as the belfries of 
Fifth Avenue pealed their invitation to worship, he 
breathed his last. 


A BOY of nine, lively and vigorous, is seated on a bench 
in a little Swedish village. He is showing his father and 
mother a tiny pump, a toy sawmill, and a small set of draw- 
ing-instruments ; he has made them all with no other tools 
than the jack-knife and gimlet beside him. The time is 
1812, a year memorable in American annals ; the place is 
Forsvik in Northern Sweden; and this wonderful boy is 
John Ericsson, who became the greatest engineer that 
Europe ever bestowed upon America. His father, Olof 
Ericsson, was a man of education, who for some years 
worked a small mine which he owned in part. He was 
sadly lacking in business ability, so that, after more than 
one call from the bailiff, his decent little property slipped 
through his fingers. Notwithstanding the poverty which 
thus befell him, he was faithful and most generous in the 
education of his three children. Ericsson's mother was of 
Flemish descent, with a Scottish strain in her blood : she 
was a woman of brains and force of character. It was 
from her that John Ericsson came by his unbending will 
and tireless energy. From the very first his bent was 
toward construction and nothing else. As a child in his na- 
tive Langbanshyttan for hours together he would watch the 
machinery of his father's mine, discovering how the wheels 
and pinions were built, how they moved, and what they did. 

When Ericsson was eight years old his father removed to 
Forsvik, a hundred miles away, as foreman of a gang of rock 
blasters on the Gota Canal, designed to carry the waters of 
Lake Venern into the North Sea. As the work proceeded, it 
drew from England a good many men trained by Telford, 
the famous builder of canals. From among them Olof Erics- 


[From the painting by K. S. MacCord, 1889.] 


son engaged teachers for his two sons, Nils and John. 
John's course included chemistry, algebra, and geometry. 
He was already a good draftsman when these lessons be- 
gan ; he was now taught field-drawing, in which he soon 
excelled. From the English controller of works nearby 
John learned English, and, as he spoke it whenever he had a 
chance, he was soon proficient. Meantime, in the variety 
of work going on around him, the lad received instruction 
as telling as that of classrooms. The details of blasting 
and excavating, of grading and building, were day by day 
drawing out his great natural powers to observe, and to knit 
cause to consequence. It was a striking case of rich soil 
enjoying the best culture. Years afterward a friend said 
to Ericsson : " It is a pity you did not graduate from a 
technological institute." Ericsson replied : " No, it was 
very fortunate. Had I taken a course at such an institution 
I should have acquired such a belief in authorities that I 
should never have been able to develop originality and 
make my own way in physics and mechanics, as I now pro- 
pose to do." 

That John Ericsson was a born commander was proved 
in his fourteenth year, when he was given charge of six 
hundred. Swedish troops employed as laborers on the Gota 
Canal : he was then so short that he had to stand on a stool 
to reach the eye-piece of his leveling instrument. At seven- 
teen, three years later, he was irresistibly drawn to military 
life; who could tell but that he might become a general 
and win national renown? He joined the Twenty- third 
Rifle Corps, and soon Ensign Ericsson was one of the best 
marksmen on its roster. By grace of the Crown Prince of 
Sweden he was accorded, in 1827, when he was twenty- four, 
the rank of captain in the Swedish Army, a title which he 
retained with pride as long as he lived. This sally into 
the profession of arms threatened the loss of Ericsson to 
the engineering world. It but added a new field to the 


empire in which he became the unapproached master. He 
now took up with enthusiasm the study of guns, and was 
soon drawing their details as swiftly and accurately as in 
later years he drew plans for engines and hoists, bridges 
and culverts. From the contours of guns he passed to a 
study of the explosive forces which guns are built to resist. 
His experiments included all the explosives then used in 
Sweden, and he became familiar with 8o-pounders on the 
Baltic, at a time when there was nothing larger than a 
4O-pounder in the United States Navy. It was in these days 
and nights of eager study that Ericsson acquired a firm 
grasp of military and naval practice, to stand him in good 
stead in after life, and on both sides of the Atlantic. 

A word as to Ericsson, the man, as he now stood on the 
threshold of his career : 

" At twenty-one," says his biographer, Mr. W. C. Church, 
" he is described as handsome and dashing, with a cluster of 
thick, brown, glossy curls encircling his white massive fore- 
head. His mouth was delicate but firm, nose straight, eyes 
light blue, clear, and bright, with a slight expression of 
sadness, his complexion brilliant with the freshness and glow 
of healthy youth. The broad shoulders carried most 
splendidly the proud, erect head." * 

At that early age Ericsson had already left Sweden, pro- 
ceeding to Havre, where he joined the staff of M. Mazeline, 
the famous shipbuilder. Here he remained about a year, 
learning much about the design and construction of ships, 
and comparing the newly devised screw propellers of Delisle 
and Sauvage. That of Sauvage commended itself to him, 

*From "The Life of John Ericsson," by William Conant Church, 
two volumes, fully illustrated, copyright by Charles Scribner's Sons, 
New York, 1890. By the kind permission of its publishers this work 
has served as the chief source of information in writing this chapter. 
Mr. Church was for years an intimate friend of Captain Ericsson, 
who appointed him to be his biographer. 


and, in improving its contour at a later day, he scored one 
of the triumphs of his career. Tradition has it that Erics- 
son chafed under the iron discipline of his French employer, 
so that he turned his eyes to England, where he sought a 
market for a new motor. With an old experiment of his 
father's in mind, he had designed before he left home an 
engine whose working cylinder should be filled with flame 
instead of steam. When his plans were embodied in brass 
and iron, the engines worked perfectly, and Ericsson for 
the first time knew a creator's joy. With $270 in bor- 
rowed cash, he went to England, arriving there on May 18, 
1826, and at once set up his engine for a new test. It had 
been a success in Sweden, where its fuel was wood. In 
England the fierce heat of coal rapidly destroyed its work- 
ing parts. His invention a failure, Ericsson sought em- 
ployment as an engineer. Even to a casual eye the superi- 
ority of the man was always manifest: to the discerning 
vision of a master engineer and manufacturer, John 
Braithwaite, of London, Ericsson was just the assistant* he 
was looking for. He engaged him at once, and soon ad- 
mitted him to a partnership, the firm becoming Braithwaite 
& Ericsson. 

The originality of the young Swede had now wide scope. 
At tin mines near Truro, in Cornwall, he installed an air 
compressor which worked a pump at a considerable distance. 
This was the first time that compressed air was used to 
transmit motive-power. Another task for air in motion 
next engaged him. He had long known that a blacksmith 
intensifies a blaze by a bellows; why not reap like profit 
by attaching bellows to the furnace of a steam boiler? From 
bellows in this application he soon passed to a centrifugal 
blower, a device which he patented in 1828. In so doing 
he was a pioneer of a new and great economy, that of 
mechanical draft, which heightens the value of all fuels, 
and makes it feasible to burn low-grade peats, refuse from 


sugar-cane, and the like, with thoroughness. In 1829 Erics- 
son installed a boiler with a blower on the Victory, which 
Captain John Ross commanded on his Arctic expedi- 
tion. It was for this boiler that Ericsson devised his first 
surface condenser, an invention of remarkable nativity, 
well worth recalling. James Watt, David Napier, and other 
inventors had sought to replace water jets by surface-con- 
densers, only to be foiled by a slowness of action which 
Ericsson overcame. His firm was employed by Felix Booth, 
a London distiller, to build his refrigerators and coolers. 
These consisted of thin copper tubes, inclosing the vapor or 
liquor to be chilled, and securely sealed from a surrounding 
stream of cold water. At that time the exhaust steam from 
engines was condensed by a jet of water which mingled with 
the condensed steam and wasted much heat. This crude 
process Ericsson saw could be gainfully superseded by his 
distillery cooler. He built a condenser with sealed tubes 
to contain exhaust steam, around which tubes might course 
salt or fresh water to reduce the steam to pure water, after- 
ward returned to the boiler for another cycle of duty. Sur- 
face-condensers, derived from this invention, are to-day in- 
dispensable in steamships and vessels of war. In addition 
to building a surface-condenser on tfce Victory, Ericsson 
introduced on that memorable ship the plan, now universal 
in vessels of war, of protecting machinery from shot by plac- 
ing it below the water-line. 

From the sea this tireless innovator returned to the land. 
He built the first steam fire engine ever constructed, and, 
using a forced draft, it sent a stream over the tall chimneys 
of a London brewery. But the municipal authorities saw 
no good in this engine, and stuck to pumping by hand. 
What if the water, often taken from gutters, did choke 
their hose with gravel and filth ? A steam engine, afloat on 
a steamboat of nine miles an hour, was adopted in 1835 for 
the protection of London, in so far as it could be protected 



from the riverside ; but for a land engine London had to 
wait until 1860, thirty-two years after Ericsson's demonstra- 
tion. So much for the official stupidity and inertia which 
were to harass and balk him all his life. 

His next great task was building the " Novelty," a loco- 
motive which competed with Stephenson's " Rocket " in 
October, 1829, at Rainhill, for a prize of five hundred 

Built by Ericsson to compete with Stephenson's Rocket, 1829. 

pounds offered by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. 
The successful engine was to draw, at ten miles an hour, 
three times its own weight, which weight was not to ex- 
ceed six tons ; the height of its chimney was restricted to 
fifteen feet, and its boiler pressure to fifty pounds per square 
inch. It must consume its own smoke: its price was to be 
^55 ( $2*677) . Five months were granted to the competing 
builders, but when Ericsson heard of the contest only seven 


weeks of this period remained. Stephenson, with ample 
time for experimental runs, was able to correct minor faults 
in his design and to give his engine thorough workmanship. 
This good fortune did not fall to Ericsson's lot, so that, 
greatly to his chagrin, the flue-sheets of his " Novelty " gave 
way before it had completed the prescribed seventy miles. 
Stephenson's " Rocket " duly finished the course, and won 
the prize. While its pace never exceeded 24 miles an hour, 
the " Novelty " reached 32 miles, which even to-day would 
be creditable speed. In design the " Novelty " was the better 
engine of the two: its connecting-rods were horizontal, so 
that they ran with steadiness ; those of the " Rocket " were 
diagonal, causing a severe racking motion from side to 
side. Stephenson adopted a steam-blast for his chimney: 
Ericsson used a blowing-machine with better effect. 

Although Ericsson was defeated at Rainhill, the per- 
formance there of his locomotive was so remarkable as 
greatly to heighten his reputation as an engineer. He 
showed rare versatility in the tasks he now took up ; let us 
glance at two of them. In 1831, at Birkenhead, opposite 
Liverpool, he set up a hollow metal drum, fitted inclined 
planes upon its inner surface, and, admitting steam at the 
center, the drum became a motor whirling 900 feet a second. 
To drive a pump, also of Ericsson's design, this swift motor 
had its speed reduced by hand-wheels ; but the velocity was 
so high as to ruin the belts. Ericsson then built another 
rotary engine, actuated by pistons, only to score another 
failure. The steam-turbine was as yet below the horizon, to 
await steels of new tenacity, machine-tools of utmost preci- 
sion, amended plans of lubrication, and, more than aught 
else, a feasible method for the reduction of steam pressures, 
step by step, until zero is approached. 

All his life long, Ericsson was an unsparing critic of the 
steam engine. He believed it wasteful, but he never 
learned just how wasteful it was. In his early days, meas- 


urement as a science and an art had not reached exactitude ; 
in his later years, he neglected its lessons. While he im- 
proved the design of steam engines again and again, and 
invented important adjuncts for their boilers and cylinders, 
he was convinced that steam would soon give place to a 
better prime-mover. To-day we know that his dissatisfac- 
tion was well grounded, and that engines using oil, or gas, 
explosively, are much the most economical converters of 
heat into work. It was neither oil nor gas, but air, that 
Ericsson chose as the medium by which he hoped to super- 
sede steam. Unfortunately he greatly overestimated the 
energy contained in a pound of coal or other fuel. He 
was wont to quote with approval the dictum of Professor 
Harvefeldt that a common spirit-lamp might well drive an 
engine of 100 horse-power. All this, be it remembered, 
was long before Joule, in 1843, na d proved that a pound 
of the best coal in burning gives out no more heat than, 
fully utilized, would yield one horse-power for 5 hours and 
42 minutes. 

In ignorance of this fundamental fact, Ericsson expected 
far too much from his regenerator. This device, in its 
simplest form, resembles the aspirator of metallic gauze 
which, a few years ago, was worn by many British folk 
under their nostrils in winter. The air as exhaled warmed 
the gauze, and this gauze then warmed the air as drawn 
through it into the lungs from the atmosphere. The prin- 
ciple of this aspirator was applied to air engines by Glaze- 
brook, as long ago as 1797, in an English patent. His de- 
vice was improved by Lilley in 1819, and by the Rev. Rob- 
ert Stirling in 1827. In 1833, Ericsson perfected a new 
and excellent regenerator for the caloric engine, whicrT he 
patented and exhibited that year. Through a fagot of 
small thin copper tubes the heated air passed out of the 
working cylinders into the cooler. On the outside of these 
tubes, cold air from the cooler passed in an opposite direc- 



a, air-receiver, b b, supply-cylinder, e' , self-acting valve for 
letting air into, and e' e' , self-acting valve for letting air out of the 
same, c, supply-piston; c', piston-rod of the same, connected to 
the working-beam of the engine, d d, working-cylinder ; d' d\ 
holes at the junctions of the two cylinders through atmospheric 
air passes in and out freely, e e, working piston, d" d\ rods 
connecting the two pistons together, e'" , air-tight vessel, below 
working piston filled with clay and charcoal to prevent trans- 
mission of heat from below. //, regenerator. /', discs of wire-net. 
g t valve, worked by engine, to admit air into regenerator and 
working-cylinder, h, valve for letting air out of same. *'/', pipe, 
open to atmosphere, to carry off air after its passage through 
engine, k, fire-place. 

tion on its way to the working cylinders. This engine, al- 
though only of five horse-power, had a working piston 14 
inches in diameter. It was this necessity for large dimen- 


sions which proved fatal to Ericsson's hopes that air was to 
oust steam as a prime-mover. In the course of his long 
career he was so often a pathmaker that, perforce, he took 
a wrong turning more than once. In choosing air as the 
working medium of his engine, he fell into his chief and 
most costly error. Whether air be used directly from the 
atmosphere, or is compressed before use, it must be raised 
through 490 Fahrenheit to be doubled in pressure, that is, it 
must rise from, say, 60 to 550. At 550 the metals in an 
engine are warped, lubricants are burned or decomposed, 
and the destruction of working parts begins. Hence a 
lower temperature, of about 390, marks the limit to which 
heating is safely carried, and at that point only two-thirds 
is added to the initial pressure of working air. Contrast 
this with steam, which, at 390, has a pressure of 200 pounds 
to the square inch, with no risk to working surfaces from 
overheating. Water, too, absorbs heat much more quickly 
than does air. Since 1833, the steam engine has been 
multiplied about tenfold in its economy, and to-day its rivals 
are not air engines, but motors driven, gun-fashion, by the 
explosions of oil-vapor or of gas. And be it noted that the 
modern air engine is much more efficient than when it left 
Ericsson's hands. It has been improved by Rider so as still 
to enjoy a field in pumping on farms, plantations, and coun- 
try estates. It is largely used for irrigation, and for the 
water supply of villages and small towns. It is simple in 
design, asks no skill in its attendant, and, as it needs no 
water, it is suited to arid regions such as those of Arizona 
and New Mexico. Where winter is long arid fuel dear, as 
in parts of Northern Canada, it may be worth while to burn 
all the fuel first for motive-power, converted into electricity, 
and then warm buildings solely with exhausts from engines. 
In such places caloric engines may find a new field. 

In England, as in Sweden and America, Ericsson was a 
man who linked himself to a few friends and no more. In 


Liverpool he formed the acquaintance of Francis B. Ogden, 
Consul for the United States, and this led to an intimacy 
fraught, as we shall see, with consequences of great mo- 
ment to Ericsson. Mr. Ogden was an observant man, with 
a mechanical turn of mind. Inspecting, as he often did, the 
instruments on board vessels in port, he was struck, one 
day, with the notion that the ordinary sounding lead could 
be easily improved. He gave his suggestion for an improve- 
ment to Ericsson, who thereupon constructed a sounding 
gage which, slightly modified, is in general use to-day. 
Ericsson took a glass tube filled with air, closed it at the top, 
leaving its base open; as this tube sank in the sea, its air 
was compressed in proportion to its depth of immersion. 
This depth was registered on a dial in fathoms or feet. A 
lump of tallow, below the tube, told whether it had struck 
bottom or not. Thus, for the first time, mariners were 
enabled to take sounding without stopping their ships, af- 
fording them a new means of safety. Lord Kelvin im- 
proved this tube by lining it with silver chromate, discolored 
by the rising water. 

This device, and others equally ingenious, were not the 
only objects of Ericsson's attention. His social circle in 
England, though limited, was large enough to include the 
woman who was to engage his heart. Among his earliest 
acquaintances in England was Mr. Charles Seidler, whose 
wife had a half-sister, Amelia Byam. When Ericsson first 
saw her, she was but ten years of age. She became a beau- 
tiful and lovely woman, the most fascinating he had ever 
beheld, as he was wont to say, intelligent, generous in 
disposition, and highly accomplished, especially in music. 
When Amelia Byam was nineteen, and Ericsson thirty-three, 
they were married in St. John's Church, Paddington. But 
Ericsson was already wedded to his engineering projects, 
and this pre-occupation meant neglect and unhappiness for 
his wife. In 1865 they parted, and although until her death. 


in 1887, they corresponded, they never met again. Only 
within narrow bounds was Ericsson ever master of the art 
of living with others. He was kind and generous to the 
point of magnanimity, but his temper was ungovernable, or, 
at least, it was quite ungoverned. His friends loved him; 
his enemies hated him with all their hearts. Where he felt 
himself to be right, it was hard for him to brook opposition. 
In plain terms, he had the defects of his virtues, and his 
masterful will often sank into sheer wilfulness. In the 
formative years of youth and early manhood he had been 
much the ablest mind in his little circle, and self-sufficiency 
became his habit, and, to some extent, his chief defect. 
This inured to his originality as a designer and an inventor, 
but, by standing aloof from his peers, he often missed the 
victories only to be won by brigade attack. To-day organ- 
ized corps of engineers are testing steels, cements, and con- 
cretes for the behoof of their brethren the world over ; bolts 
and screws, girders and rails, are standardized; fire-pre- 
vention proceeds apace, and the electrical corrosion of metal 
structures is investigated. Every leader draws freely upon 
the new knowledge and economy thus placed at his service : 
in requital he contributes what he can from his own ex- 
periments and experience; so that practice everywhere may 
rise to the level of the best anywhere. Nothing is more 
remarkable in Ericsson's career than his ignorance of ad- 
vances in physical research, turned to profitable account by 
scores of contemporary engineers who, in native ability, 
hardly stood as high as his shoes. 

His originality of conception had full play in his next 
great task. In 1833, he began experiments with propellers 
of various contours, on the London & Birmingham Canal. 
Three years later he built a steamboat model whose screw 
propeller gave it a speed of three miles an hour. Cheered 
by this pace in a mere model, Ericsson proceeded to build 
a real steamboat, 45 feet long, 8 feet beam, and 3 feet 


draught. She was launched in 1837, and named in honor of 
his friend in Liverpool, the Francis B. Ogdcn. Two pro- 
pellers, 5 feet 3 inches in diameter, were so fitted to the 
vessel that either could be used. This little steamer moved 
at ten miles an hour, and Ericsson invited the Lords of the 
Admiralty to take passage in her for a trip on the Thames. 
They came, but only to shut their eyes to plain proof that a 
screw was a better propeller than paddles. Quoth the Sur- 
veyor of the Royal Navy, Sir William Symonds : " Even if 
the screw has the power to propel a vessel, it would be 
found altogether useless in practice, because, the power be- 
ing applied at the stern, it would be absolutely impossible 
to make the vessel steer." 

A few months later, in 1837, Ericsson designed a steam 
engine of a new and economical type. Its two cylinders 
worked at right angles to each other, and the connecting- 
rod coupled to their one crank-pin, directly turned the pro- 
peller shaft. This engine, applied to the iron steamer Rob- 
ert F. Stockton, in 1838, was the first direct-acting engine 
ever built for propulsion. 

The screw propeller was well known before Ericsson took 
it up ; but he was the first to sketch a form so correct that 
at the outset it worked with high economy. Engines, as 
then employed for paddle-wheels, were much too slow for 
the direct actuation of screws. Ericsson's chief rival in 
England, Francis Pettit Smith, employed gearing in the 
actuation of his screw. Ericsson, with characteristic ir- 
reverence, threw tradition to the winds, and coupled his 
propeller directly to a fast engine. For a time his patent 
brought him a fair royalty, but he had to maintain a con- 
stant fight against aggressors. The final decision in the 
United States courts was that the screw propeller could not 
be protected by a patent. The British Government, for its 
use of the screw, divided $100,000 equally among five of 
its designers, Smith, Lowe, Ericsson, Blaxland, and Wood- 


croft. A striking case, this, of a device long neglected, and 
then independently revived by several projectors of mark. 

All his life long, Ericsson was dominated by the ingenuity 
and boldness of his conceptions : seldom did he ask, " If car- 
ried out, will they pay?" Thus his career in England, 
though professionally brilliant, was a failure financially. 
In 1837, at a time of widespread panic, the firm of 
Braithwaite & Ericsson became bankrupt, and Ericsson for 
a time was immured in the Fleet, the famous prison for 
debtors. That year, through his friend, Mr. Ogden, he 
met Lieutenant Robert F. Stockton, of the United States 
Navy, who was building the Delaware & Raritan Canal, 
and was visiting England in quest of funds for the enter- 
prise. He accompanied Ericsson on a trip of the Francis B. 
Ogden from London Bridge to Greenwich, and was so grati- 
fied that he immediately ordered for the United States Navy 
two iron steamboats, to be fitted with Ericsson's steam 
machinery and propellers. Returning home, Stockton was 
promoted to a captaincy, and ordered to the Mediterranean. 
On his way thither, he paused in London to consult his 
friends, Ogden and Ericsson, and to witness a trial trip of 
one of the vessels he had ordered, named by Ericsson the 
Robert F. Stockton. Its length was 70 feet, its beam 10 
feet, its draught 3 feet. It was driven by a double-cylinder, 
direct-acting engine of 50 horse-power. An Ericsson spiral 
propeller completed its machinery. In January, 1839, Erics- 
son gave her a trial trip on the Thames, with Mr. Ogden, 
Lieutenant Stockton, and thirty other passengers. Her suc- 
cess was unqualified, inducing the Times to forecast " im- 
portant changes in steam navigation." Ericsson applied his 
propeller to other English craft, with results equally good 
from an engineer's point of view. But commercially his 
demonstration bore no fruit : it required years of persuasion 
to bring British officials and the British public to adopt the 
screw propeller. 


In 1839, Ericsson became superintending engineer for the 
Eastern Counties Railway; while in its service he devised a 
machine for constructing embankments. For some unre- 
corded reason, probably his constitutional impatience of con- 
trol by others, he grew discontented with his post, and 
hailed with joy the prospect of a visit to America. Con- 
gress had authorized the construction of three warships, 
and, on Stockton's assurance that Ericsson would be al- 
lowed to build one of them, he sailed for New York on the 
Great Western, arriving, after a rough voyage, on Novem- 
ber 23, 1839. He brought complete plans for a steam 
frigate, such as he expected to build. Every detail was 
worked out, including engines and motive power, her diverse 
guns, and the mechanism by which they were to be mounted, 
aimed, and fired. This Swedish artilleryman, fortified by his 
thirteen years of observation and study in England, offered 
America plans such as no other engineer in the world could 
then prepare. But opposition arose, and it was not until 
1842, three years later, that the keel was laid of Ericsson's 
steam frigate. She was named the Princeton, in honor of 
Captain Stockton's place of residence in New Jersey. 

Meanwhile Ericsson found much to do. First of all, he 
won with his fire engine a prize from the Mechanics' In- 
stitute of New York. And if the Navy hesitated about 
adopting his screw propeller, ordinary shipowners were 
alive to its merits. At a date not now ascertainable, prob- 
ably in the summer of 1841, the canal barge Ericsson, built 
from his plans, plied on her first trip from Brockville to 
Montreal, one hundred and forty miles, in sixteen hours. 
This speed was moderate, but the Ericsson proved her abil- 
ity to keep a safe course through the Longue Sault and 
Lachine Rapids, the most tumultuous of the St. Lawrence. 
Five other vessels, equipped with the Ericsson propeller, 
were placed upon the Rideau Canal and the St. Lawrence 
River, so that the name " propeller " came to signify a 


freight steamer driven by a screw. In the United States, 
the Clarion, plying between New York and Havana, was 
fitted with an Ericsson propeller, as also were seven ves- 
sels steaming out of Philadelphia to various southern ports. 
A like equipment was bestowed upon the Revenue Cutter 
Jefferson on Lake Erie. By the end of 1843, no fewer 
than forty-two vessels on American and Canadian waters 
were actuated by Ericsson screws. 

Ericsson had been in New York two years when, in the 
fall of 1841, Stockton at last received orders from the 
United States Navy Department to build a steamer of 600 
tons. He at once engaged Ericsson to draw its plans and 
supervise its construction, with the distinct understanding 
that he was to be paid for his services. This vessel, duly 
launched and equipped, was named the Princeton. She was 
exhibited with triumph. Unfortunately, during her con- 
struction, Ericsson and Stockton drifted apart. The 
irascible and imperious designer, conscious of his powers, 
grew weary of the condescension, not to say the arrogance, 
of the naval martinet. On February 5, 1844, Stockton re- 
ported to the Navy Department that the Princeton dis- 
played " great and obvious advantages both over sailing- 
ships and steamers propelled in the usual way (by paddles). 
With engines lying snug in the bottom of the vessel, out of 
reach of an enemy's shot, making no noise, smoke, or agi- 
tation of the water, she can surprise an enemy and at pleas- 
ure take her own position and her own distance/' All true. 
But Ericsson had no mention in a report from which might 
be inferred that it was Stockton who had designed the 

Her inaugural closed with a shocking fatality. On board 
were guns with self-acting locks, patterned after a wrought- 
iron gun which Ericsson had designed in England and 
brought to America. This model weapon, though forged 
of the best iron, had the faults of a forging : strong length- 


wise, it was weak transversely, so that cracks appeared in 
its trial firing. As a remedy, Ericson adopted an expedient 
now universal. Hoops of wrought-iron, three and one-half 
inches thick, were shrunk over the breech of the gun up to 
its trunnion bands. These hoops were arranged in two 
tiers, one above another, so as to break joints, and these 
joints were so close that the outer band seemed a single 
piece of metal. Thus reinforced, the gun was fired about 
three hundred times with charges varying from 25 to 35 
pounds of powder, and with shot of 212 pounds, so as to 
pierce a wrought-iron target 4^ inches thick. Prompted 
by this amazing result, Stockton designed a gun of his own, 
which he called the " Peacemaker." It was duly forged, 
and then sent to New York to be bored and finished under 
Ericsson's direction. It was of like caliber with his model 
gun, twelve inches, but a foot wider at the breech, and much 
heavier throughout. Its appearance of strength was decep- 
tive. Harm had been suffered under the forging hammer, 
harm not discovered until too late. Ericsson, with a 
paternal partiality for his own gun, advised Stockton to use 
it instead of the " Peacemaker " on the inaugural day, but 
he does not seem to have doubted the strength of Stockton's 
gun. However, it burst, under a final charge, killing sev- 
eral members of the company, and severely wounding Cap- 
tain Stockton. He was acquitted of blame by a court of 
inquiry which was promptly summoned. He had slighted 
Ericsson, who now stood aloof in Stockton's distress. Their 
differences naturally grew more and more embittered, as 
we shall observe. Ericsson's model gun on the Princeton 
had proved sound and safe, thanks to its reinforcing hoops. 
This source of strength was duly remarked. During the 
Civil War the Union looked to Major T. J. Rodman and 
Captain R. C. Parrott for its heavy guns, and these, as 
forged and hooped, were lineally descended from the Erics- 
son weapon on the Princeton. 


Ericsson's services as her designer and builder now in- 
volved him in the most unpleasant contest of his life. In 
March, 1844, he sent to the Secretary of the United States 
Navy a bill for $15,080 for professional services in supervis- 
ing the construction of the Princeton, including $5,000 as 
inventor and designer of her apparatus, gun-carriage, and 
spirit-level, by which the elevation of a piece of ordnance 
might be readily and precisely ascertained, and her sliding 
chimney, which could be reduced to a height of five feet 
above the deck. If this slight projection had been carried 
away, or damaged by a shot, the draft, because forced, 
would nevertheless have been continued with efficiency. 
Ericsson's bill was referred to Captain Stockton, who wrote 
a long series of objections, concluding: "Captain Erics- 
son, at the time he volunteered his services, considered that 
the opportunity accorded him to exhibit to the world the im- 
portance of his various patents would be satisfactory re- 
muneration for all his services in getting them up on so 
magnificent a scale." 

So much for omitting to reduce to writing a weighty 
matter of business, clearly understood at the outset, and 
afterward warped by a bitter personal quarrel, and what 
Ericsson termed " the deep rascality of Stockton." Erics- 
son, at the beginning, distinctly agreed that if his plans were 
successful he was to be compensated. The success of his 
plans was acknowledged, and not only in America, but in 
France and England, where they received the flattery of 
imitation. Besides, why should the Navy Department re- 
fuse to pay him for services strictly professional in super- 
vising the building of the Princeton? Merely to execute 
the drawings occupied him two hundred and seven days, 
and his pace was twice that of an ordinary draftsman. One 
hundred and thirteen days more had been consumed in su- 
perintendence and travel. The Naval Committee of the 
House of Representatives unanimously reported a bill to 


pay Ericsson his claim, but the House defeated it by a 
small majority. In 1848 a similar bill was defeated by 
an adverse report from the Senate Naval Committee. In 
March, 1856, the Senate ordered that Ericsson's papers be 
referred to the Court of Claims, then recently established. 
It decided in Ericsson's favor, and the Senate Committee 
reported a bill for its payment. Congress, however, neg- 
lected to appropriate the money, and Ericsson was never 

This injustice, and much ill usage on the part of na- 
tional officers in later years, soured Ericsson to the core. 
This was one reason why he never really became an Amer- 
ican, never took root in a country where he lived continu- 
ously for fifty years. At the first refusal of payment for 
his work on the Princeton, his anger was heightened by his 
dire poverty, solely due to his having disbursed as much as 
$6,000 in anticipation of full and prompt repayment. How 
with an empty purse could he meet his pressing debts ? At 
one time his bank balance fell to $23. On September 16, 
1846, he wrote to his friend, John O. Sargent: " I received 
your letter of the I4th yesterday afternoon, and opened it 
with a trembling hand. My worst fears were realized, and 
I turned nearly crazy for a few minutes. In my despair I 
resorted to the expedient of asking Delamater (the engine 
builder) to help me, and he has done so for to-day, ap- 
propriating the funds he has for meeting a bill at the end of 
next week. Now, if in addition to my anxiety already ex- 
perienced, I should ruin the young man's credit by not being 
able to refund the money by next Wednesday, I shall have 
to cut my throat." 

From this pecuniary distress he was for a time relieved 
by the sale to the Government of the steamer Massa- 
chusetts, in which he had an interest, and by the receipt of 
$4,300 for the application of his fresh-water apparatus to 
that vessel. 


By 1848, Ericsson had climbed out of debt by sheer hard 
work. His rage against Stockton and the Government had 
calmed down : in October of that year he was naturalized as 
a citizen. But his drawing-board held him in a subjection 
never relaxed : he took no interest in politics until slavery 
threatened the life of the Union. Then his soul was 
aroused, for he could conceive nothing meaner than the 
desire of one man to live on the toil of another. How 
nobly and indispensably he served the nation we shall duly 

Versatile in an extraordinary degree, Ericsson at this 
period entered many diverse fields, always as a conqueror. 
He improved his surface-condenser for steamships, giving 
it an engine of its own, so as to be independent of the en- 
gine driving the screw. Hence, in case that bad weather, or 
accident, checked or stopped the propelling engine, the task 
of condensation would not be interrupted. He was vitally 
interested in the intensity of flames beneath a steam boiler, 
or within a cupola furnace such as ironmakers employ. In 
measuring their extreme temperatures, he discarded, as 
worthless, the clay measures of Wedgewood, and devised 
a thermometer which registered the degree to which the heat 
expanded its confined gas. This method, in which he was 
once again pioneer, survives as one of the most trust- 
worthy ever invented. But these and other creations were 
but the by-play of a mind intent on a supreme task, that 
of supplanting the steam engine as a prime-mover. 

After he came to the United States, in 1839, Ericsson 
continued his experiments with hot air as a motor, building 
eight caloric engines between 1840 and 1850. He gradu- 
ally enlarged their dimensions, until a cylinder of 30 inches 
diameter succeeded to the 1 4-inch cylinder of his first Amer- 
ican design. All these engines had, as regenerators, metal 
chests with wire meshes in which the outgoing air left 
much heat for the incoming air to absorb. The difference 


in temperature between the incoming and outgoing streams 
was never less than 350 Fahrenheit. In 1851 he designed 
a ninth engine, to cost $17,000, having a two-foot stroke 
and two compressing cylinders of four feet diameter. Its 
two regenerators contained twenty-seven million cells, and 
Ericsson estimated that but eleven ounces of coal were 
burned in producing one horse-power for an hour. If this 
estimate was correct, Ericsson's engine surpassed any feat 
to-day possible to the best steam engines which, with 
multiple expansion, and the most elaborate auxiliaries for 
economy, never burn less than one pound of coal as against 
his eleven ounces. If his figures were wrong, Ericsson im- 
movably held them to be right. How this led to the one 
great disaster of his professional career is told by him in his 
Contributions to the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, 
in 1876: 

" The regularity of action and perfect working of every 
part of the thirty-inch engine in 1851, and, above all, its ap- 
parent great economy of fuel, inclined some enterprising 
merchants of New York, in the latter part of 1851, to accept 
my proposition to construct a ship for navigating the ocean, 
propelled by paddle-wheels actuated by the caloric engine. 
This work was commenced forthwith, and pushed with 
such vigor that within nine months from commencing the 
construction of the machinery, and within seven months of 
the laying of the keel, the paddle-wheels of the caloric ship 
Ericsson turned around in the dock. In view of the fact 
that the engines consisted of four working cylinders of 168 
inches diameter, 6 feet stroke, and 4 air-compressing cylin- 
ders of 137 inches diameter and 6 feet stroke, it may be 
claimed that in point of magnitude and rapidity of con- 
struction, the motive machinery of the caloric ship stands 
unrivaled in the annals of marine engineering." 

To build this vessel required about half a million dol- 
lars, her engines costing $130,000. Her length was 260 
feet, her breadth 40 feet, her draught 17 feet, with a ton- 


nage of nearly 2,200. The keel was laid in April, 1852, 
five months later she was launched, and started on her trial 
trip January 5, 1853. Six weeks afterward, on February 
16, 1853, she left New York for Washington, arriving there 
safely, notwithstanding a stormy passage. Her four work- 
ing cylinders, each 14 feet wide, were bestowed in pairs 
midway of the vessel, two forward and two aft. Instead 
of resting on the keelsons, in the usual manner, they were 
suspended, like huge camp kettles, over the furnace fires. 
Above the working cylinders were four supply cylinders, or 
single-acting pumps, of 137 inches in diameter. Eight 
piston-rods, each 14 feet long, connected the mammoth 
pistons of each set of cylinders, and these pistons had a 
total capacity of 43 cubic feet. Ericsson expected to reach 
a pressure of 12 pounds to the square inch with his engine 
and calculated that this would give a speed of ten or even 
twelve miles an hour; but it was found impossible to ex- 
ceed eight miles. This gait, slow as it was, fulfilled his 
promise, and a failure in speed would not have condemned 
his vessel if a quicker pace seemed feasible when his design 
received revision. 

The Ericsson returned to New York, and was in many 
details much improved. Blowers were added to force the 
draft, and make good a deficient area of grate surface. But 
out of a fair sky fell a thunderbolt. During a trip on April 
27, 1854, in New York Bay, the Ericsson was struck by. a 
sudden squall and sank. This was her designer's account 
of the wreck, in a letter to his friend, Mr. Sargent: 

" At the very moment of success of brilliant success 
Fate has dealt me the severest blow I ever received. We 
yesterday went out on a private preparatory trial of the 
caloric ship, during which, all our anticipations were 
realized. We attained a speed of from twelve to thirteen 
turns of our paddle-wheels, equal to fully eleven miles an 
hour, without putting forth anything like our maximum 


power. All went magnificently until within a mile or two 
of the city (on our return from Sandy Hook), when our 
beautiful ship was struck by a terrific tornado on our lar- 
board quarter, careening the hull so far as to put com- 
pletely under water the lower starboard, which, unfor- 
tunately, the men on the freight deck had opened to clear 
out some rubbish, the day being very fine. The men, so far 
as we could learn, became terrified and ran on deck without 
closing the ports, and the hold filled so rapidly as to sink 
the ship in a few minutes. I need not tell you what my 
feelings were as I watched the destructive element entering 
the fireplaces of the engines, and as the noble fabric, yielding 
under my feet, disappeared inch by inch. A more sudden 
transition from gladness and exultation to disappointment 
and regret is scarcely on record. Two years of anxious la- 
bor had been brought to a successful close, the finest and 
strongest ship, perhaps, ever built was gliding on the placid 
surface, of the finest harbor in the world, and within a few 
cable-lengths of her anchorage ; yet, with such solid grounds 
for exultation, and with such perfect security from danger, 
a freak of the elements effected utter annihilation in the 
space of a few minutes." 

The unfortunate ship was lifted to the surface: it was 
decided to convert her into a steamer, as her air engines 
had developed but 300 horse-power. It had been proved, 
beyond dispute, that in very large dimensions, such as those 
of the Ericsson, air cannot compete with steam as a motive 
power. Bulk and weight, with all the inflexibility of arith- 
metic, oppose the project. The Ericsson, as a steamer, in 
1858 bore the remains of ex-President James Monroe from 
New York to Richmond, Virginia, with the Seventh Regi- 
ment as an escort. During the Civil War she served as a 
transport. At last she was converted into a sailer, and 
carried coals on the Pacific Ocean under the Union Jack. 
All his life afterward, Ericsson maintained that his caloric 
. ship was his masterpiece, both in design and construction. 
Its failure left him still believing that its motor, in prin- 
ciple, was the best ever built. In January, 1855, nine 


months after the Ericsson foundered, he wrote to his busi- 
ness associates, Mr. Stoughton, Mr. Tyler, and Mr. Blood- 
good : 

". . . On the principle of the improved caloric engine, 
more motive power may be obtained from a mass of metallic 
wires of two feet cube than from a whole mountain of 
coal, as applied in the present steam engine. Every experi- 
mental trial made has more than realized my anticipations as 
regards the rapidity and certainty of depositing and return- 
ing the caloric on this remarkable system. The practical 
application alone has presented difficulties. ... In the 
meantime 1 find myself on the verge of ruin. I must do 
something to obtain bread, and vindicate to some extent my 
assumed position as the opponent of steam. Accordingly I 
have determined to return to my original caloric engine. 
The plan is less brilliant less startling but as it proved 
to yield power practically twenty years ago, so will it 
again. At any rate, it cannot fail to be sufficiently useful 
to save its author from starving. . . ." 

A thousand of these caloric engines were sold in two 
years, the beginning of a demand which ,for a long period 
steadily widened. These Ericsson engines were yoked to 
printing presses, hoisting gear for warehouses, docks, and 
ships; they were busy in mines and mills; they were em- 
ployed for pumping, for irrigation, and for the water supply 
of villages ; many were applied on farms to threshing, on 
plantations to ginning and other tasks. Of late years air 
engines have suffered severely from the competition of 
lighter and more forceful engines burning gas or gasoline, 
as well as from the rivalry of electric motors. 

While Ericsson overrated the regenerator, its worth was, 
nevertheless, substantial. In 1838 he sought to link it to 
the steam engine, but success eluded him. Now, thoroughly 
familiar with steam engines of new types, he had better for- 
tune. His plan was to send exhaust steam through tubing, 
on the other side of which ran water on its way to the 


boiler. This feed-water heater, in modern forms, is always 
part of a steam engine of the best class. The exhausts 
from heat engines form much the largest item of loss; 
their utilization, especially to heighten the efficiency 
of engines themselves, still offers a promising field to 

For the careful execution of his designs, and for secur- 
ing a wide and growing market, Ericsson was indebted to 
Cornelius H. Delamater, the engine builder, and for many 
years owner of the Phcenix Foundry in New York. With 
him the inventor maintained the longest and most intimate 
of his friendships. Mr. Delamater was a clerk in the 
Phcenix Foundry when the engines for the Princeton were 
under construction in 1842. He had the utmost confidence 
in Ericsson's talents and integrity. To be sure, Ericsson's 
temper was at times most provoking; and yet, after every 
storm, the sunshine of his good will emerged all the warmer 
for a ray of repentance. 

Another intimate friend of Ericsson's was Professor 
James J. Mapes, an engineer holding high rank as an ex- 
pert in patent cases. Whenever Ericsson's ring was heard 
at their door, the Mapes children sprang to greet him, for 
his kindness and playfulness had wholly won their hearts. 
After a romp with the youngsters the inventor would dis- 
cuss with the professor deep questions in physics and chem- 
istry, soon reaching the horizons where inference leaps 
into conjecture. In his big and busy brain the great 
Swedish engineer had many compartments, and their con- 
tents were highly contrasted. Often at the fireside of his 
friend Mapes, he would glide from a page of Laplace's 
" Mechanism of the Heavens," or a theorem in Newton's 
" Principia," to recalling a Swedish ballad of his youth. 
His biographer, after Ericsson's death, found among his 
dusty diagrams and calculations a list of songs which in- 
cluded " Who are you, my girl ? ", " It is so sweet in 


Spring," and " Oh, Robert, cruel is our parting." This 
man, who, when more than sixty years of age, would stand 
on his head for the amusement of the Mapes children, was a 
dreaded and gusty autocrat in foundries and engine sheds. 
At the drafting-table no man excelled him in celerity and 
accuracy. Yet, John Ericsson was, after all, a human 
being, and, therefore, liable to err, and to suffer lapses of 
memory, although at extremely long intervals. His own 
expertness made him an exacting master; and he required 
in execution a rigid adherence to every detail in his draw- 
ings. One day his assistants were filled with glee: they 
found that " the old man " had omitted a vent-hole in a 
drawing otherwise complete. In his life by Colonel Church 
appears this characteristic story: 

" Charles Nelson, at one time draftsman in the Novelty 
Works in this city, had charge of the engines of the Co- 
lumbia, designed by Captain Ericsson, and when the en- 
gines were finished it was customary in those days to get 
the length of the piston-rod from the engine itself, so that 
there would be no mistake in cutting the key-way on the 
piston-rod. Nelson was down in the Columbia's cylinder 
with a baton about fourteen feet long, when Ericsson came 
on board and stood right over him. He roared out : ' What 
are you doing there, sir ? ' 

1 ' Getting the length of the piston-rod, Captain Erics- 

" ' Is it not on the drawing, sir ? ' 
' Yes, sir.' 

" ' Then why do you come here with sticks, sir ? Go and 
get the length from the drawing, sir. I do not want you to 
bring sticks when the drawing gives the size.' " 

Charles Bernard, an old New York engineer, used to tell 
a similar story of Ericsson's accuracy. John Mars was 
putting in the engines of the Quinnebaug, and one of the de- 
tails was a small connection as crooked as a dog's hind leg. 
Mars tried to get it into its place for a long time, but failed, 


and finally went to Ericsson and told him the rod could not 
be got in. Ericsson said : 

" Is it right by the drawing?" 

" Yes, sir," said Mars. 
" Then it will go in," said Ericsson ; and when Mars tried 
it again it did go in. 

At the outbreak of the Civil War, in April, 1861, Erics- 
son was fifty-eight years of age, yet enjoying all the vigor 
usual at forty. Twelve to fourteen hours a day, standing 
at his table, he drew plans .for machinery and engines. An 
occasional visit to a foundry or a machine shop, at rare in- 
tervals a call upon Professor Mapes or Mr. E. W. 
Stoughton, were the only breaks in his toil. The attack on 
Fort Sumter, and the events which quickly followed, stirred 
him profoundly: as in many another case, the division of 
camps had converted a friend into a foe. In former days 
at Washington, a Representative from Florida, the Hon. 
Stephen R. Mallory, had been a champion of his claims as 
designer of the Princeton, and had become thoroughly 
aware of his extraordinary powers. Mr. Mallory was now 
the virtual head of the Confederate Navy: at his instance 
the frigate Merrimac, which had been burned and sunk in 
Norfolk Harbor, was lifted and repaired, to be clad with 
iron armor and work ruin to Union warships. With but 
one establishment in the South capable of furnishing armor, 
the Tredegar Foundry at Richmond, work was slow on the 
Virginia, as the frigate was now named. Her progress 
toward completion was, from day to day, telegraphed to 
the New York press, and this impelled Ericsson to action. 
On August 29, 1861, he wrote to President Lincoln, offering 
plans of the Monitor, plans so simple that they could be ex- 
ecuted within ten weeks from the day they were taken in 
hand. Ericsson was invited to lay these plans before the 
Navy Department. Accordingly he reported himself in 


Washington on September 14, 1861. Sixteen years after- 
ward, in a letter to Captain E. P. Dorr, of Buffalo, he nar- 
rated his reception: 

". . . On entering the room occupied by the Board over 
which Commodore Smith presided, I was very coldly re- 
ceived, and learned to my surprise that the Board had actu- 
ally rejected my Monitor plan, presented by Mr. Bushnell 
(afterward his partner in her construction). Indignant, my 
first resolve was to withdraw, but a second thought 
prompted me to ask why the plan was rejected. Com- 
modore Smith at once made an explanation that the vessel 
lacked stability. My blood being well up, I finished my 
demonstration by thus addressing the Board : 

" ' Gentlemen, after what I have said, I deem it your 
duty to the country before I leave the room to give me an 
order to build the vessel.' 

" I was asked to call again at one o'clock. Commodore 
Paulding invited me into his room, and in a very cordial 
manner asked me to report my explanation about the stabil- 
ity of the vessel. I complied, having in the meantime 
drawn a diagram presenting the question in a very simple 
form. My explanation lasted about twenty minutes, at the 
end of which the frank and generous sailor said : 

" ' Sir, I have learned more about the stability of a ves- 
sel from what you have said than I ever knew before/ 

" Commodore Smith then desired me to call again later in 
the day. On my appearance I was asked to step into Secre- 
tary Welles's room, who briefly told me that the com- 
modores had reported favorably, and that, accordingly, he 
would have the contract drawn up and sent after me to New 
York, desiring me in the meantime to proceed with the work. 
I returned at once, and before the contract was completed 
the keel-plate of the intended vessel had already passed 
through the rollers of the mill. . . ." 

Why the Monitor was so named, her designer narrates 
in his " Contributions to the Centennial Exhibition " : 

" The Navy Department at Washington having, shortly 
before the launch, requested me to suggest an appropriate 


name for the impregnable tttrreted steam-battery, I ad- 
dressed a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 
saying : ' The impregnable and aggressive character of this 
structure will admonish the leaders of the Southern Re- 
bellion that the batteries on the banks of their rivers will 
no longer present barriers to the entrance of the Union 
forces. The iron-clad intruder will thus prove a severe 
monitor to those leaders. But there are other leaders who 
will also be startled and admonished by the booming of the 
guns from the impregnable iron turret. Downing Street 
will hardly view with indifference this last Yankee notion, 
this monitor. To the Lords of the Admiralty the new craft 
will be a monitor, suggesting doubts as to the propriety of 
completing those four steel ships at three and a half millions 
apiece. On these and many similar grounds I propose to 
name the new battery Monitor.' 

" It will be recollected that this letter was regarded in 
England as possessing political significance, several mem- 
bers of Parliament having called for its reading in the House 
of Commons when the news of the result of the battle be- 
tween the Monitor and the Merrimac appeared in the Times. 
Unquestionably the advent of the Monitor materially coun- 
teracted the pressure which the French Emperor brought to 
bear on the British Ministry at the time, in favor of the 

Southern States." 


On October 25, 1861, the keel of the Monitor was laid; 
she was launched January 30, 1862, and practically com- 
pleted by February 15. Her extreme length was 172 feet, 
her breadth 41^ feet, with 11^2 feet as her depth of hold; 
she drew 10^2 feet of water. Her turret was 9 feet in 
diameter and 8 inches thick; her side armor was 5 inches 
thick, her deck plating was one inch thick. Her two pro- 
pellers were each 9 feet in diameter; her steam cylinder 
was 36 inches in diameter, with a stroke of 26 inches. She 
was a vessel of 776 tons. Her design was the slowly 
ripened fruit of a lifetime varied in engineering experience, 
rich in bold and original thought. Ericsson knew every 
line of the working plans carried out on the Gota Canal ; he 



had studied artillery and its allied problems in the camps 
of Jemtland; for commerce and for war, he had designed 
ship after ship from keel to masthead. 

For the daring plan of the Monitor he declared his in- 

Side Elevation 

Deck Plan 

Transverse Section of Hull and Turret 

Designed by John Ericsson. Built at New York, 1861. 

debtedness to his observation of rafted timber on Swedish 
lakes. In a storm he had seen the raftsman in his elevated 
cabin subjected to but little motion, while waves were freely 


breaking over the logs around and beneath him. Above and 
beyond all other qualifications, Ericsson was a man to whom 
the rules of past practice were servants and not masters. 
He was convinced that all engineering feats thus far ac- 
complished were trifles as compared with victories near at 
hand. In the Monitor he gave war a wholly new and ter- 
rible weapon. She was an impregnable floating battery, 
with guns of the largest caliber then produced, with a hull 
shotproof from stem to stern, and with her rudder and 
screws protected from an enemy's fire by an overhang of 
13 feet. In order to navigate the shallow waters of the 
Southern States, her draught was but eleven feet, demand- 
ing a sunken hull from the impossibility of carrying the 
weight required to protect a high-sided vessel. Her cylin- 
drical turret, revolving on a vertical axis, made feasible an 
all-around fire while the vessel remained stationary. Tur- 
rets, modified from Ericsson's design, appear in every mod- 
ern man-of-war. The Monitor cost her builder $195,142.60, 
yielding a net profit of $79,857.40. Of this Ericsson's 
share was one-fourth, $19,964.35, plus $1,000 for engineer- 
ing services. Happily for Ericsson and for the Union, the 
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Gustavus Vasa Fox, was a 
man of ability and courage, who had served fourteen years 
in the Navy when appointed Assistant to Secretary Welles, 
who used his technical knowledge with daily advantage. 
At first Mr. Fox dissented from Ericsson's plans; he soon 
became their stanch supporter. 

When the Monitor was ready for duty, it was intended to 
despatch her to join Farragut's expedition against New Or-- 
leans. News of the approaching completion of the Virginia 
at Norfolk changed this program : the Monitor was ordered 
to proceed to Hampton Roads on the earliest date possible. 
She left New York on the afternoon of March 6, 1862, in 
tow of a tug, and accompanied by two steamers, the Curri- 
tuck and the Sachem. For twenty-four hours in a smooth 


sea, the Monitor moved evenly and comfortably. Then, 
with a rising wind, the sea swept her deck, entered through 
the hawsepipes, and choked her draft. These mishaps, 
and others less serious, were in part due to errors in con- 
struction easily remedied, and to lack of experience in 
handling so novel a craft. There was only one man on 
board who thoroughly understood the build of the Monitor. 
This was Chief Engineer Alban C. Stimers, the naval in- 
spector of ironclads, who was a passenger. Years before, 
he had been chief engineer of the Merrimac. But for his 
skill and presence of mind, the maiden voyage of the Moni- 
tor might have ended in disaster. From her cabin he wrote 
to Ericsson on March 9, 1862 : 

" After a stormy passage which proved us to be the 
finest seaboat I was ever in, we fought the Merrimac for 
more than three hours this forenoon, and sent her back to 
Norfolk in a sinking condition. Ironclad against ironclad, 
we manoeuvered about the bay here, and went at each other 
with mutual fairness. I consider that both ships were well 
fought. We were struck twenty-two times, pilot house 
twice, turret nine times, deck three times, sides eight times. 
The only vulnerable point was the pilot-house (perched 
above the turret). One of your great logs, nine by twelve 
inches thick, is almost broken in two. The Merrimac tried 
to run us down and sink us as she did the Cumberland yes- 
terday, but she got the worst of it. Her horn passed over 
our deck, and our sharp upper-edged rail cut through the 
light iron shoe upon her stem and well into her oak. She 
will not try that again. She gave us a tremendous thump, 
but did not injure us in the least, we were just able to find 
the point of contact. The turret is a splendid structure ; I 
don't think much of the shield, but the pendulums are fine 
things, though I cannot tell you how they would stand the 
shot, as they were not hit. 

" You were correct in your estimate of the effect of shot 
upon the man inside of the turret when it struck near him. 
Three men were knocked down, of whom I was one. The 
other two had to be carried below, but I was not disabled 


at all, and the others recovered before the battle was over. 
Captain Worden stationed himself at the pilot-house, Greene 
fired the guns, and I turned the turret until the Captain was 
disabled, and was relieved by Greene, when I managed the 
turret myself, Master Stoddard having been one of the two 
stunned men. 

" Captain Ericsson, I congratulate you upon your great 
success; thousands here this day bless you. I have heard 
whole crews cheer you ; every man feels that you have saved 
this place to the nation by furnishing us with the means to 
whip an ironclad frigate that was, until our arrival, hav- 
ing it all her own way with our most powerful vessel." 

This narrative from inside may be supplemented by a 
recital from outside, by a Confederate soldier, who, from a 
safe position, saw the fight.* He declares that had the 
Monitor concentrated her fire upon the water-line of the 
Merrimac, she would have been pierced as if paper. At a 
later day it was proved that the guns of the Monitor could 
safely bear charges of powder much heavier than those fired 
during her famous battle. In justice to her officers it should 
be remembered that they were forced to fight immediately 
upon arriving in Hampton Roads, after a fatiguing voyage, 
under singularly trying conditions, and with a vessel whose 
idiosyncrasies they had no time to learn. " All the men," 
wrote her chief engineer, Isaac Newton, " were nearly ex- 
hausted. I, for one, was sick on my back, with little hope 
of being up in a week, but a short time before the action. 
The Merrimac was entirely in our power when she hauled 
off, but orders were imperative to act on the defensive." 
The commander of the Merrimac, Catesby Jones, testified 
before a naval court that the Monitor ought to have sunk 
his vessel in fifteen minutes. Alban C. Stimers met Mr. 
Jones, on the last of many occasions, in 1872. Mr. Jones 
remarked : " The war has been over a good while now, and I 
think there can be no harm in saying to you that, if you had 

^Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. ix; 21. 


hit us twice more as well as you did the last two shots you 
fired, you would have sunk us." 

While the contest in Hampton Roads pointed to the 
necessity of redesigning the naval armaments of the world, 
it failed to show all that a monitor might do. When Erics- 
son's vessel left his hands, it was beyond his control. He 
had created an impregnable floating battery, carrying guns 
powerful enough to destroy any of the enemy's ships: he 
could do no more. The wave of rejoicing which overswept 
the North was due less to the achievement of the Monitor, 
fought as she was, than to confidence that the Government 
had at least one vessel that could not be sunk by the Merri- 
mac; and what was to prevent the rapid building of a fleet 
modeled on the Monitor? Happily the Merrimac was fated 
to give the North no further trouble. A few weeks after 
her most famous battle, and without firing another shot, she 
sank in Chesapeake Bay. A like fate befell the Monitor, 
which foundered in a gale near Cape Hatteras, on Decem- 
ber 31, 1862. 

Following the success of the Monitor, there flowed upon 
her designer a great tide of congratulation and applause. 
From State Legislatures, from Chambers of Commerce 
and Boards of Trade, from public meetings convened for the 
purpose, thanks and laudations were poured upon the Moni- 
tor; upon Ericsson, her creator; Worden, her commander; 
Greene, her executive officer; Newton, her chief engineer; 
and upon Stimers, the engineer appointed to accompany and 
report upon her, who worked her turret. President Lin- 
coln, members of his Cabinet, many of the diplomatic corps, 
officers of the army and navy, and ladies, too, crowded to 
see the new ship of war, and to view its scene of conflict 
in Hampton Roads. On March 28, 1862, Congress passed a 
joint resolution acknowledging the enterprise, skill, energy, 
and foresight of Captain John Ericsson, displayed in his 
construction of the Monitor, which arrested the destruction 


then proceeding by the enemy's ironclad steamers, seem- 
ingly irresistible by any other means at command, according 
him thanks for his great services to the nation. 

After disabling the Merrimac, the Monitor joined the 
ironclad Galena and several wooden vessels in a demonstra- 
tion against Richmond. " This," says Professor Soley, 
" was one of the boldest and best conducted operations of 
the war. Had Commander Rodgers been supported by a 
few brigades, landed at City Point or above on the south 
side, Richmond would have been evacuated. The Virginia's 
crew alone barred the way to Richmond ; otherwise the ob- 
structions would not have prevented his steaming up to the 
city, which would have been as much at his mercy as was 
New Orleans before the fleet of Farragut." * 

Admiral Farragut, by the way, was at first opposed to 
Ericsson's great invention. After the battle of Mobile 
Bay he changed his mind. Referring to that contest, Erics- 
son said : " Admiral Farragut now admits that a single 
monitor can sink a whole fleet of wooden vessels. He was 
convinced after seeing his own gun-deck covered with blood 
and mangled bodies by the fire from the ram, while on board 
the turret-vessels not so much blood was shed as a mosquito 
would draw." 

Yet so fair-minded was Ericsson, so compelling his sense 
of right, that in 1875 he wrote to an inquirer : " In reply to 
your kind letter asking for a copy of acknowledgments re- 
ceived complimentary to what you are pleased to call my 
' great work/ I beg to state that nothing could induce me 
to lay before the world the approving opinions of the moni- 
tor system without also presenting the adverse criticism of 
my work of which learned as well as skilful, practical men 
have written in great numbers." 

Critics of the monitors pointed to disasters which had 
overtaken several of them, disasters to which warships of 

* "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War," p. 761. 


ordinary models would not be exposed. In comment, Erics- 
son wrote to his friend John Bourne, the eminent English 
engineer, on November 3, 1863 : 

" The monitors have not only proved sea boats, but they 
are lifeboats on a large scale, which cannot perish in any 
hurricane or raging sea, provided there is water under their 
bottoms and their deck openings are properly closed. The 
sinking of the original Monitor was caused by an inexperi- 
enced commander raising her turret before going to sea, 
and then putting oakum under its base. The turret, on be- 
ing let down, rested on a few thick lumps, the sea washing 
out the rest and producing a leak of some fifty feet in ex- 
tent, admitting more water than the pumps could take away. 
But the vessel did not go down in an instant, as reported, 
for it took full four hours before the stream of water un- 
der the turret overpowered the pumps. The monitor Wee- 
hawken went down at anchor in Charleston harbor during 
a gale, the forward deck-hatch having been left open and 
remaining so for fifteen minutes, while the sea made a clean 
breach over the vessel. We have positive evidence that 
both the seams and rivets of that vessel remained sound. 

" Ordinary vessels roll because the wave on the weather 
side, impeded by the hull, rises to a greater altitude than 
on the opposite side. In the case of the Monitor the wave 
can only rise sixteen inches, after which it mounts the deck, 
and by force of gravity bears down the hull and checks the 
tendency to roll. The projecting side armor also assists 
powerfully in preventing rolling. The pitching, from the 
same cause, is less in monitors than in other vessels. As to 
ventilation, old sailors who have been in these vessels night 
and day for two years have assured me that no other ves- 
sels of war can compare with them. It must be so, since 
the air before entering the boiler-room sweeps through the 
quarters. To assume that the means of ventilation fail is 
to assert that the vessels have ceased to move, there being 
no sails and no air for the boiler furnaces except what is 
drawn in by centrifugal blowers through the turret, or 
through impregnable air-trunks on deck." 

In the course of the year 1863, which saw Ericsson thus 
defending his monitors, his heart was cheered by news 


from England. Sir Edward J. Reed, the chief constructor 
of the British Navy, had designed an ironclad, the Bel- 
lerophon, in which a revolving turret was introduced. To 
this vessel succeeded the Thunderer and the Inflexible, sug- 
gested by Ericsson's Dictator, a ship to be presently de- 
scribed. England was followed by Italy, whose citadel- 
ship Duillio, completed in 1880, embodied an Ericsson tur- 
ret, with armor thicker and tougher than it had been pos- 
sible to bestow upon the Monitor. From her Ericsson's 
only profit was as one of her builders. He did not patent 
the Monitor as an invention, nor did he patent at least two 
score devices which he originated in her equipment. In 
1882, Senator Orville H. Platt, of Connecticut, proposed 
that Congress should accord Ericsson some material recog- 
nition of his services. He replied : " Nothing could induce 
me to accept any remuneration from the United States for 
the Monitor invention, once presented by me as my con- 
tribution to the glorious Union cause, the triumph of which 
freed four million bondmen." 

The cardinal feature in the Monitor was its revolving tur- 
ret; Ericsson's claim as its originator was disputed by 
Theodore R. Timby, who, in 1842, patented a cylindrical 
iron citadel for harbor defense, having several floors, each 
carrying guns fixed on radial slides. In its original plan 
this structure was intended to revolve continuously, whether 
its guns were fired or not. Timby exhibited his model at 
home and abroad, and he accused Ericsson of deliberate 
plagiarism, apart from unessential improvements of detail. 
This borrowing Ericsson denied with indignation, pointing 
out that revolving structures for the discharge of pro- 
jectiles were two thousand years old, and affirming that he 
could not remember the time when he did not know of their 
existence. He claimed that a ship of war provided with 
a turret capable of turning toward any point of the com- 
pass was original with himself. But there was Timby's 


patent for a structure of features unmistakably similar ; this 
patent, as reissued with broadened claims, was bought by 
the partners of Ericsson, but without his consent. Their 
purchase, they believed, would give them control of a har- 
bor defense which they expected the Government to adopt 
on a comprehensive scale. In Timby's design the pilot- 
house was in the upper part of the turret. Ericsson put his 
pilot-house at some distance from his turret, an arrangement 
which Timby criticised in vain. The controversy with 
Timby provoked Ericsson greatly: it plainly turned UP- 


on a case common enough in the history of inven- 
tions, where an idea occurs independently to more seekers 
than one. 

As long ago as 1807 there appeared in Albany, in the 
Transactions of the Society for the Promotion of Useful 
Arts in the State of New York, an illustrated description of 
a floating battery invented by Abraham Bloodgood. It was 
designed to be firmly anchored, and this is the only par- 
ticular in which it essentially differed from the Monitor. 
Its cylindrical turret for guns, strongly armored, was held to 
offer new advantages in attack : 

(i) Its rotary motion would bring all its cannon to bear 


successively, as fast as they could be loaded, on objects in 
any direction. 

(2) Its circular form would cause every shot that might 
strike it, not near the center, to glance. 

(3) Its motion, as well as its want of parts on which 
grapplings might be fastened, would render boarding almost 

(4) The steadiness with which it would lie on the water 
would render its fire more certain than that of a ship. 

(5) The guns would be more easily worked than is com- 
mon, as they would not require any lateral movement. 

(6) The men would be completely sheltered from the fire 
of the elevated parts of an enemy's ship. 

(7) The battery might be made so strong as to be im- 
penetrable to cannon shot. 

With the triumph of the Monitor, the national demand 
for armorclads of her type became imperative. Within a 
week from the encounter at Hampton Roads, Ericsson was 
requested to construct six monitors, the Passaic and her sis- 
ter vessels. With his usual energy, as soon as the work was 
verbally agreed upon he began his drawings. They flew so 
fast from his hands that his most rapid assistant was soon 
left far behind ; and so complete was every detail, so thor- 
ough the coordination of part with part, that he did not find 
it necessary to examine any work after execution. His 
method was to begin with the drawing which demanded 
most shopwork, the others following in their order of dif- 
ficulty. One sheet went to this foundry, another to that 
machine shop, and so on. When the several parts were 
assembled, each fitted the others as a voussoir joins its mates 
in a well-planned arch. 

While the Passaic and five similar monitors were still on 
the stocks, Ericsson was requested to furnish plans for four 
more monitors, the Nahant, Nantucket, Weehawken, and 
Comanche. Ericsson told his partners that he had agreed 


to furnish duplicate plans to the contractors for these ves- 
sels; his partners said that this would simply invite com- 
petition with firms who secured for nothing what had cost 
the inventor and his associates much money. He replied 
that he felt in duty bound to aid the Government to the full 
extent of his power in meeting the emergencies of war. 
To this sentiment his partners yielded, but the result they 
feared was suffered. Rivalry led to an active demand for 
labor and material. The firms who worked from Ericsson's 
matured plans, made castings from his patterns, and dupli- 
cated his wrought-iron work, had distinct advantage over 
him as a builder. 

On June 18, 1862, the Secretary of the Navy requested 
Ericsson to build two large ironclads; one of them with a 
single revolving turret, the other with two turrets. These 
vessels were afterward named the Dictator and the Puritan. 
The Dictator was 312 feet in length, 50 feet in breadth, 
21 2-3 feet in depth of hold, with 20 feet draught. Her 
turret, with an inside diameter of 24 feet, had armor 15 
inches thick. Her two propellers were each 21^2 feet in 
diameter: her displacement was 4,971 tons. Ericsson op- 
posed the demand for two propellers as here introduced, 
and he objected to two turrets for the Puritan, but, sorely 
to his chagrin, he had to bow to official behests. Two years 
later he had his way, when it was decided that the Puritan 
should have but one turret, with two 2O-inch guns, each 
weighing 48 tons, with solid spherical shot of 1,000 pounds. 
The Dictator sailed from New York on December 15, 1864, 
arriving at Fort Monroe two days afterward. The Civil 
War was fast approaching its close, and the Dictator was 
never tested under fire. When peace was declared, the 
Puritan was unfinished, and, there being no immediate de- 
mand for her services, unfinished she remained. 

War vessels much less massive than the Dictator or the 
Puritan were suggested by the Monitor. Her success was 


in part due to her lightness of draught, but eleven feet, 
which enabled her to manoeuver in shallow waters. Gun- 
boats on the same general plan, designed to draw but six 
feet of water, could ply in many a Southern stream not deep 
enough for the Monitor. In response to a request from 
Assistant Secretary Fox, Ericsson sent the Navy Depart- 
ment, without charge, specifications for shallow boats of this 
type. Their dimensions were to be 221 by 41 feet, with 
flat-bottomed hulls, 168 by 31 feet, incased in solid timber, 
with easy lines, and extending 20 feet beyond the hull for- 
ward, and 32 feet aft. Each was to have two propellers, and 
carry 3-inch armor. Turrets and pilot-houses were to copy 
those of the Passaic. These designs were handed for execu- 
tion to Chief Engineer Stimers, who had been associated 
with Ericsson in the construction of the Monitor, and who 
had rendered vital services in her fight with the Merrimac. 
Under his direction twenty boats were built, at a cost of 
$14,000,000. Ericsson's plans, as they left his hands, could 
have been carried out with success ; as radically changed by 
Stimers, the boats, when launched, all but refused to float. 
An opportunity to swarm up the shallow waters of the 
South was therefore missed, and an immense outlay was 
wholly wasted. From time to time, as work progressed on 
his altered designs, Ericsson loudly remonstrated, and in 
vain. He was enraged and disgusted ; but that large heart 
of his had no space for rancor. Though forced to condemn 
Stimers' work, he bore no hostility to the man. Stimers 
died soon afterward, and in poverty. Ericsson educated his 
daughter, and joined in a plea that Congress should pension 
Stimers' family. 

Ericsson was a great engineer because he was first of all 
a great man. This came out in his passionate love of his 
native land. He had left her shores at twenty-three never 
to behold them again, yet she had no son on her soil more 
devoted to her. He was convinced that Sweden, with her 


small population, could only defend herself against Russia 
or Germany by mechanical means. He sent to Stockholm, 
as a gift, a 1 5-inch Rodman gun, then the most effective 
piece of ordnance afloat. Throughout the summer of 1867 
he remained in New York, busy at his drawing-board, plan- 
ning means of defense for the coasts of Sweden. He pro- 
posed a fleet of vessels, each of but 140 tons, designed to 
fight bows on, their turrets stationary and oval in section, 
so as to offer the narrowest possible target to an enemy. 
The pilot-houses were put aft, out of the line of fire. The 
machinery for the first vessel he presented as a gift. Creep- 
ing along the coast from inlet to inlet, always in shallow 
water, these boats could not be run down, and meantime 
could deliver a deadly fire. Afterward Ericsson advised 
Sweden to adopt for her defense, gunboats as preferable 
to monitors. The torpedoes of that day he regarded with- 
out fear. He maintained that their removal, even in con- 
siderable numbers, involved no special difficulty or risk. 
His plans and counsels were accompanied by material aid. 
His gifts to the Swedish navy up to September, 1867, ex- 
ceeded $23,000, a large sum as compared with his modest 

Spain followed Sweden on Ericsson's drawing-table. In 
September, 1868, Queen Isabella II. was driven from her 
throne, and Spain entered upon a long period of civil 
strife. This prompted the enemies of Spain in Cuba to 
attempt delivering the Island from Spanish authority. The 
Provincial Government, representing the Spanish Monarchy, 
found repression to be a perplexing and perilous task. In 
their extremity they despatched to New York, early in 1869, 
two naval officers of high rank, to secure sorely needed 
ships of war. They called upon Delamater & Company, 
who immediately consulted their friend Ericsson. As he 
had just solved questions for Sweden such as those now 
presented by Cuba, he at once suggested a scheme for 


thirty gunboats to encircle the Cuban seaboard. Each ves- 
sel was to be 107 feet by 22^/2, with 6 feet depth of hold; 
two propellers, and a loo-pound gun were to complete each 
equipment. Surface-condensers were to perform double 
duty, returning exhaust steam as fresh water to the boilers, 
and supporting the engines so as to dispense with special 

The price for each vessel was $42,500, so that the whole 
fleet cost $1,275,000, or no more than a single cruiser of 
moderate size. The first boat was launched on June 23, 
1869, thirty-four working days after laying her keel. When 
three months and sixteen days more had elapsed, the thir- 
tieth and last vessel was launched, and fifteen of the fleet 
had taken their boilers and engines on board. Captain- 
General De Rodas issued a proclamation to the insurgent 
Cubans on March 24, 1870, pointing out that in view of 
the chain of war vessels on their coasts, they could not 
expect aid from abroad. His warning was effective. It is 
highly probable that the insurgents would, in 1869, have 
achieved independence for Cuba had Ericsson not thus 
strengthened the hands of Spain. 

In planning his vessels of war, Ericsson devoted much 
thought to improving their heavy guns. This led him to a 
prolonged study of the strength of metals and alloys as 
used for guns, the effects of explosions, the wear and 
tear they cause, and the laws governing the paths of pro- 
jectiles. Year by year, as his investigations proceeded, 
powders were heightened in effect, so that their use became 
at once more difficult and more alluring. These advances 
left unaffected the value of his reinforcement, originated on 
the Princeton in 1842, when he had bound her cracked 
gun with hoops of wrought-iron. That gun, thus strength- 
ened, did its duty faithfully, as we have already observed. 
It penetrated four and a half inches of iron, and then 
passed through a sandbank behind it eight feet in thickness. 


This gun had an auxiliary in Ericsson's wrought-iron car- 
riage for the Princeton, devised in 1843, which dispensed 
with breeching. This invention substantiated his claim to 
be the pioneer of modern ordnance. 

The hoops, or huge washers, with which Ericsson clasped 
the core of a gun were, after all, a return to the first 
artillery ever built. The earliest makers of heavy guns 
arranged in a circle longitudinal bars of wrought-iron, and 
surrounded them with hoops of the same material. These 
rude weapons were for a time superseded by guns of cast- 
iron, a metal which Ericsson always distrusted. He returned 
to the use of wrought-iron, and, well aware of the injury it 
might receive in large masses under a mammoth forging 
hammer, he had recourse to hoops, identical in form and ef- 
fectiveness with those of old days. In each hoop, or ring, 
the iron-fiber, neither bruised nor jarred, was at its strong- 
est. It was easy to use rings so wide that the encircled gun 
might safely be filled with powder from end to end. With 
this reinforcement at command, Ericsson designed a gun of 
15-inch caliber, and he insisted that in all reinforced guns 
charges of powder might be much increased with perfect 
safety. Experiment proved him right. No 1 5-inch guns 
came to grief during the Civil War; one of them was tested 
with loo pounds of powder, and at the trying elevation of 
45 degrees, yet showed no distress. In 1890, guns weighing 
in tons, five times as much as the 1 5-inch gun, were 
rendering satisfactory service to foreign navies. Ericsson, 
during the Civil War, was constantly provoked to anger 
by having his guns undercharged with powder. Naval 
commanders, with the limits of past practice in their minds, 
were blind to the fact that his guns were vastly stronger 
than the guns built in their early days of service. He 
found, as many another reformer has found, that old habits 
are inflexible, and that new knowledge must undergo many 


a wearisome test, and survive many a baseless doubt, be- 
fore it acquires a right of way. 

One objection to Ericsson's heavy guns was the alleged 
impossibility of handling them aboard ship. Their de- 
signer once more came to the rescue. His wrought-iron 
gun-carriage, with its friction gear, checked the recoil of a 
12-inch gun with a 3<>pound charge in a distance of 16 
inches. Yet more: on the Spanish gunboat Tornado, he 
provided a rotary gun-carriage and transit platform for 
heavy guns, enabling a gunner to aim at any point of the 
compass. Here he repeated in effect the mechanism of his 
revolving turret, with its sweep through a full circle. 

From guns Ericsson now passed to torpedoes. He held 
that when stationary they had little or no value; his ex- 
periments led him to expect much from torpedoes properly 
directed and propelled. In 1870, he devised a torpedo 
driven and steered by compressed air carried through a 
flexible tube, paid out from a reel either on board the 
weapon or on shore. At intervals for five years Ericsson 
continued his experiments. In the spring of 1875, Com- 
modore W. N. Jeffers, Chief of the Naval Bureau of Ord- 
nance, reported that a model torpedo which he had re- 
ceived from Ericsson " worked regularly without the slight- 
est trouble. ... I have exhibited it to other chiefs of 
Bureaus, and to other naval officers, who were free in their 
expressions of wonder and satisfaction at the successful 
manner in which it operated." 

Commodore Jeffers now placed at the disposal of Erics- 
son a smooth-bore 1 5-inch gun with its carriage, mounted 
on a Navy Yard scow. With this gun tests were conducted 
at Sandy Hook, proving that an elongated 1 5-inch shell 
forming a torpedo projectile 10 feet in length, designed to 
carry dynamite or other high explosive, could be fired in 
any direction from an ordinary smooth-bore gun, using a 
small charge of powder as the impelling agent. The plan 


embraced a revolving turret for projecting and directing 
the gun. This turret Ericsson regarded as indispensable, 
and when Commodore Jeffers wished it to be omitted, the 
experiments were discontinued. Ericsson, on his own 
initiative, now proceeded to plan his famous Destroyer, 
which embodied his matured ideas of torpedo warfare. 

The Destroyer was a comparatively small, swift, armor- 
clad vessel, with a submarine gun to project torpedoes. 
All her vital parts were deeply submerged, and it was in- 


[From "Life of John Ericsson" by W. Conant Church. Copyright, by 
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, i8gi.] 

tended that her pace should equal or excel that of the craft 
she sought to destroy. Ericsson submitted his plans to the 
Navy Department; three years passed, and nothing was 
done. He decided to look elsewhere than to Washington. 
His experiments were so gratifying that on August 7, 1880, 
he announced to his friends, the Delamater Company, who 
built the Destroyer : " Ironsides are doomed. Our torpedo, 
with the propelling piston bolted to its aft end, went yes- 
terday 275 feet in a direct course under water, and then 
floated to the surface. The torpedo was not fully loaded, 
hence did not go as far as it might. Enough was accom- 
plished, however, to show that we can sink an enemy with- 


out ram, steam-launch or spar-torpedo of our navy. All 
these devices are gone to the dogs." 

Commander Jeffers was relieved from his office on July 
i, 1881. His successor did not regard the Destroyer with 
favor. He held that the projectile of the submarine gun 
should have more range, ignoring the fact that the range 
of a missile fired in so dense a medium as water is very 
limited. Aside from this, a longer range would demand 
a greater velocity, demanding a charge so heavy as to 
shatter a projectile of the necessary lightness. The plans 
were now submitted to a naval board, with Admiral Self- 
ridge as its chairman. They reported favorably, and re- 
ceived the concurrence of Admiral Porter, the head of the 
Navy, who sought from Congress an appropriation for the 
purchase of the Destroyer, urging Ericsson to keep her 
construction a secret from foreigners. Admiral Porter in 
formal terms recommended that twenty steel vessels be built 
on Ericsson's plans, with quadruple expansion engines to 
assure a speed of thirty miles an hour. To this proposal 
the new chief of the Ordnance Bureau demurred, insisting 
on conditions to which Ericsson would not agree. These 
conditions included a thorough test of the Destroyer at its 
inventor's cost, and at sea, although the vessel was not built 
for sea service. And, further : it was required that her guns 
employ high explosives. In vain Ericsson pleaded that 
these terms would subject him, in case of accident, to the 
penalties of manslaughter, or, at least, to heavy damages, 
as his ship did not hold a Government commission. He 
justly said that it was unfair to ask him to add twenty thou- 
sand dollars to the hundred thousand he had already ex- 
pended in solving a problem of national defense. 

One-half the cost of the Destroyer had been advanced 
by Mr. C. H. Delamater, and he grew weary of the long de- 
lays in canvassing for its adoption. His interest in Erics- 
son prompted him to protest against his devoting to a thanjc- 


less public service any more of the life of arf octogenarian. 
To the end of his days Ericsson was warmly concerned in 
the Destroyer, though he had little hope of aid from a nation 
which in forty years had not found time to pay him for his 
work on the Princeton. Twice he offered to build for the 
Navy Department an improved Destroyer, with a guarantee 
of success, relieving the Department of all responsibility. 
His offers were declined. In 1886, in his eighty- fourth 
year, he wrote to the Hon. A. H. Cragin: 

" The success of the Destroyer would destroy the pros- 
pects of the powerful fortification and gun interest, which 
looks forward to an expenditure of one hundred millions 
within a few years. Then we are opposed by the iron- 
clad shipbuilding and armorplate combinations ; not to men- 
tion torpedo-boat builders, submarine-boat projectors, and 
dynamite gun manufacturers, all against us, as their plans 
will be worthless if foreign ironclads can be shattered and 
our harbors defended without guns and fortifications, by 
the employment of the simple and cheap submarine artil- 
lery system." 

The cost of the British Inflexible, with its turret and 
armament, was $3,250,000. For this sum a fleet of thirty 
Destroyers could be built, and one-half of the three hun- 
dred and fifty men forming the crew of the Inflexible could 
man them all. To the four heavy guns of the larger 
vessel they would oppose thirty submarine cannon, each 
having the huge bulk of the armorclad as a target for its 
500 pounds of high explosive. Was it not better, Erics- 
son argued, to distribute the risks of war among thirty 
vessels than to center them in a single huge craft? And 
could there be any doubt that the advantage would rest 
with the navy which chose the superior weight of metal, 
or, in this case, of explosive? 

On April 27, 1887, Ericsson wrote to the Secretary of 
the Navy, the Hon. William C. Whitney, stating that he 


had just completed the plan of a vessel for harbor defense : 
she was of the Destroyer type, 24 feet beam, 13 feet deep, 
and carried a projecting belt of steel armor 3 inches thick 
and 30 inches deep, extending around to her outer hull. 
This armor, backed by oak planking, 3^ inches thick, was 
sufficient protection against the fire of machine guns, and 
the vessel, when trimmed for conflict, would be nearly sub- 
merged. The portion of the cabin, projecting 3^2 feet 
above the main deck, was similarly protected. The breast 
armor for protection against heavy guns in fighting, bow 
on, was of inclined compound steel plates 30 inches thick, 
backed by 6 feet of oak timber. Ericsson asked $275,000 
as the price of this vessel. His offer to build it was not 

In 1876, Ericsson justly described himself to an intimate 
friend, as " the man who has done more to promote marine 
engineering, mechanical motors, and implements of naval 
warfare than any other ten persons together during the last 
thirty years." Let us review his improvements in the 
steam engine, which, as a prime-mover, he vainly en- 
deavored to supersede. His steam engines, from those built 
for the little tug Stockton, in 1839, to those of 4,500 horse- 
power for the Dictator in 1882, all had one feature in com- 
mon, original with him. They brought the power of two 
engines to bear at right angles upon one crank-pin. In 
another invention he gave effect to a suggestion of James 
Watt, by making a piston vibrate within a semi-cylinder. 
Ericsson introduced this design in the Princeton, and ap- 
plied it with modification in the Edith and the Massachusetts. 
In 1859, the United States Navy sought an engine specially 
adapted to screw propulsion. Ericsson responded with a 
semi-cylinder of qualified type. He divided a cylinder mid- 
way by a steam-tight partition, forming two short cylinders, 
each with a piston: the two pistons moved in opposite di- 
rections, and were attached to the same crank on the pro- 


peller-shaft by levers, rockshafts, and connecting rods. 
These, and other inventions of a high order, Ericsson de- 
scribed and pictured in his " Contributions to the Centen- 
nial Exhibition," published in Philadelphia, in 1876. 

During his sixty years of professional activity, the ef- 
ficiency of steam engines was increased about tenfold. 
Toward this advance he contributed the surface-condenser, 
a feed-water heater, and a superheater. In addition to these 
original devices, wherever he came upon good practice 
he carried it a step further. He adopted and improved 
artificial draft, the expansion of steam in two cylinders 
instead of one; and, well aware of the great economy of 
high pressures, he employed steam at 225 pounds per square 
inch when 100 pounds were deemed the limit of safe work- 
ing. With metals and alloys of new strength, with machine- 
tools of heightened power and precision, he saw that new 
gifts were proffered to engine builders. He grasped them 
with boldness and success. 

From Ericsson, the engineer, let us turn to Ericsson, the 
Swede. Once, in writing to the Royal Librarian at Stock- 
holm, he said : " I know but one fatherland : I would rather 
that my ashes reposed under a heap of cinders there, than 
under the stateliest monument in America." 

And Sweden requited his fealty with every honor in her 
gift. In 1852, he was made a Knight of the Order of Vasa. 
In 1866, an industrial exhibition was held in Stockholm, to 
which the great inventor was invited in the most cordial 
terms by the Crown Prince, afterward King Oscar II. His 
invitation, with equal cordiality, Ericsson declined on the 
score of pressing engagements from which he could not free 
himself. The next year his old neighbors of Filipstad paid 
him a compliment which touched him to the heart. On 
September 3d they unveiled at Langbanshyttan, a superb 
shaft of granite, pyramidal in form, 18 feet high, and 8 feet 
square at the base, inscribed: 



was born here 
on the 3ist of July, 1803. 

There was a characteristic word in the letter of ac- 
knowledgment which he sent through his friend, Com- 
mander A. Aldersparre: 

". . . It is with great pleasure I find that, at the dedica- 
tion of the monument at Langbarishyttan, my former play- 
fellow, Jonas Olsson, now foreman at the iron foundry, was 
present. This honorable man must have a souvenir from 
me. Will you excuse me troubling you again ? I inclose a 
check for five hundred crowns ($140), and would you please 
for that sum buy a gold watch and have engraved on the 
inside, ' To Jonas Olsson from his playmate, John Erics- 
son,' and then have it delivered to the honest workman. 
Could this be done through my friend Gustaf Ekman and 
with a little ceremony, I would be pleased." 

In 1867, when a terrible famine prevailed in large areas of 
his native land, Ericsson sent $5,600 to Norrland, for the 
purchase of grain best adapted to its soil. Says his biog- 
rapher, Mr. Church : " A Swedish traveler, who visited 
him at this time, tells how his voice choked, and tears filled 
his eyes as he spoke of the distress in his native land. He 
said : ' Let us not be content with assurances that life can 
be sustained on herbs not intended by Nature for the food 
of human beings. Bags of meal will be more welcome 
among the unfortunates than good advice as to gathering 
coral-moss for winter food.' " 

Until his mother's death, in 1853, news from Sweden 
came to Ericsson chiefly through her letters. He loved 
his mother with all his heart. When nothing else could 
tempt him from his drawing-board he would turn aside 
long enough to respond to a word from her; and his re- 
sponses usually included remittances for her comfort. To 


his sister in Sweden, Mrs. Odner, Ericsson gave a com- 
modious house, and the proceeds of his Swedish patent for 
the caloric engine, yielding a considerable yearly income. 
On October 25, 1870, in a letter to his nephew, John, he 
said : " The news that I no longer have a brother was, 
indeed, a severe blow ; it pained me all the more as I had 
received only a fortnight before information that my sister 
had been laid in her grave. The thought of their sufferings 
presents itself constantly to me, and is in the highest de- 
gree painful." Ericsson gave largely and constantly to 
impoverished relations and friends, and to public objects. 
Yet his bestowals did not denote mere pecuniary incon- 
tinence : he carefully considered the justice of each claim, 
and his gifts were bestowed with sound judgment. 

In 1868, the. University of Lund, in celebrating its second 
centenary, extended a hearty invitation to Ericsson. He 
could not attend, but he honored the occasion by sending a 
thesis on solar heat as a source of motive-power. His paper 
recounted experiments in which solar rays falling upon a 
surface ten feet square had been concentrated by reflectors, 
so as to evaporate 69 cubic inches of water in an hour, and 
generate by steam one horse-power. The University, in ac- 
knowledgment, gave him a degree as Doctor of Philosophy. 

He constructed his first solar motor in 1870, and intended 
it to be a gift to the Academy of Sciences in France. As 
incidentally it registered the amount of steam generated, 
friction was minimized to the utmost in its design. The 
sun's rays were focused upon a cylindrical heater, placed 
lengthwise above a reflector shaped like a trough. Erics- 
son believed that motors on this model would have great 
value in regions where solar heat is intense, and where sun- 
shine is seldom obscured by clouds. He said: 

" Experiments show that my mechanism abstracts on an 
average, during nine hours a day, for all latitudes between 


the equator and 45 degrees, fully 3.5 units of heat per 
minute for each square foot presented perpendicularly to the 
sun's rays. A unit of heat equals 772 foot-pounds, so that, 

Designed by John Ericsson. Built at New York, 1872. 

theoretically, energy of 2,702 foot-pounds is transmitted by 
the radiant heat per minute for each square foot, or 270,200 
foot-pounds for ten feet square, or 8.2 horse-power. But 
engineers are well aware that the whole dynamic energy of 


heat cannot be utilized in any engine whatever. Hence I 
assume that but one horse-power will be developed by the 
solar heat falling upon an area ten feet square within the 
latitudes mentioned." 

From time to time during the remainder of his life he 
busied himself with this motor and with the storage of its 
motive-power. When he compressed air for this purpose, 
he found that he had to employ a reservoir of undue bulk. 
It may be that the electrical storage battery will prove to be 
the desideratum here. But before the sun in its direct 
beams replaces fuels in which its rays are indirectly stored, 
coal, peat, and wood will have to be much dearer than they 
are to-day. Heat engines of modern types not only show 
a high economy, but that economy is steadily rising, while 
their exhausts are now much more widely utilized for heat- 
ing and manufacturing than ever before. But Ericsson's la- 
bor, as he improved his solar engine, was not barren. It 
brought him to principles of construction which, adapted to 
his hot-air engine, conferred a new effectiveness upon that 
motor. In its improved design it was built by thousands 
by the Delamaters for a profitable sale. Strange to say, 
Ericsson never patented this engine, his most lucrative in- 
vention. For sixteen years Mr. Alfred W. Raynal was 
superintendent of the Delamater Works. He has said: 
" The chief characteristic of Ericsson was nobility of soul. 
He had genius of the first order, and under a grim ex-> 
terior he had a heart of gold. A workman, Bernard 
Sweeney, whom he liked, fell ill and died. Ericsson ordered 
the Works to be closed on the day of the funeral, that all 
who wished might attend. He cheerfully paid more than a 
thousand dollars as the wages involved in this tribute of 

And now it is fitting, as this sketch draws to a close, that 
a word be said about the homes of Ericsson in New York. 
In 1843, he removed from the Astor House, where he had 


lived for about two years, to 95 Franklin Street. Here he 
remained until 1864, when he bought a house at 36 Beach 
Street for $20,000, and made it his home until his death. 
Beach Street runs toward the Hudson River, a few blocks 
below Canal Street. At the time of his purchase it was the 
southern boundary of St. John's Park, an inclosure much 
resembling Gramercy Park to-day. Ericsson's front win- 
dows at first enjoyed a full view of beautiful trees and 
flowers. To oblige a friend, Ericsson joined in trans- 
ferring the Park to the Hudson River Railroad Company: 
he sent the cash consideration paid him to Sweden, in relief 
of famine there. His neighborhood soon lost character 
when an ugly freight-house, with its heavy and noisy traffic, 
took the place of the grass and quiet of the Park. All this 
was uncomfortable and disagreeable to a man so sensitive as 
Ericsson. But there he remained, through an unconquer 
able dread of removal. 

During the final years of his life, Ericsson was assisted 
in his engineering work by Mr. F. V. Lassoe, a native of 
Denmark. His private secretary for twenty-five years was 
Mr. Samuel W. Taylor, whose compliance with his idiosyn- 
crasies made him indispensable. Ericsson grew so accus- 
tomed to his secretary's clear handwriting that when, in his 
later years, he received a typewritten letter, he read it 
only when copied by Mr. Taylor's pen. Indeed, this cham- 
pion of mechanical progress, in his hostility to innovation in 
personal matters, illustrated anew that a strong brain may 
be built in water-tight compartments. Objections urged 
against the copying-press on its original introduction were, 
in Ericsson's mind, never silenced. He would have only 
manuscript copies of his letters, and, of course, this rule 
created much unnecessary labor. In account-keeping he 
went no further than to scribble memoranda in his check- 
books. For more than fifty years he kept diaries, pro- 
fessional and personal in their entries. These he destroyed 



on the appearance of Froude's " Life of Carlyle." A con- 
tributing reason probably was, too, that he wished to be 
judged by his mature work, with no record of the gropings 
and fumblings which, of necessity, had gone before. 

When he had a difficult problem to solve he would lean 
back in his chair, with his head resting against the wall, 
and sink into a quiescent state, approaching unconscious- 
ness. Then, he was accustomed to say, his best thoughts 
came to him. Once, indeed, a puzzling combination in his 
solar engine was worked out in a dream. He felt that it 
was only by sheer disregard of precedent and example that 
he could free his mind from restraint, and fulfil his destiny 
as an original worker. And yet the habit of solitary toil 
thus acquired became at last too strong. When mechanical 
and engineering practice was forging ahead with quick- 
ened pace, he ignored its new horizons, and thus missed 
what he might otherwise have accomplished. It must be 
plainly said that there was in him, with all his high virtues, 
a streak of downright perversity. He never took a trip 
on the elevated railroad of New York. He never saw Cen- 
tral Park, and would have never seen Brooklyn Bridge, had 
not his secretary once driven upon its roadway when they 
were out together, without saying where they were going. 
It was long before he believed in the telephone, and, as his 
secretary listened to a voice which he recognized, Ericsson 
exclaimed : " You are deceived." 

Joined to traits such as these, were rules of regimen 
simple and sensible. His plain food and drink were care- 
fully chosen and exactly measured. After his fiftieth year 
he drank no alcohol. His usual beverage was water, in 
summer cooled with ice to a temperature about twenty de- 
grees below that of the air. He was fond of strong tea: 
he never used tobacco in any form. His sleeping-room had 
its windows slightly open the year round. For two hours 
every morning he practised the calisthenics he had learned 


as a youth; this was followed by a sponge-bath and a vig- 
orous rubbing. As plumbing was one of his aversions, there 
was no bathroom in his house. In his eighty-third year he 
wrote : " I have important work before me, and hence live 
like a man training for a fight. My reward is unbroken 
health. I digest my food now as well as I did at thirty. 
Nor is my muscle less tough and elastic than at that age." 
This was a somewhat rosy statement, but in the main it 
was true. 

For many years his cook and housekeeper was Ann Cas- 
sidy, a tidy little Irishwoman. She knew just how long to 
keep loaves on the dining-room mantel until they became 
stale enough for the Captain's palate. She knew in what 
order to dispose the two hundred and forty pins which kept 
smooth the sheet upon his mattress. She faithfully stood 
guard over his privacy. Yet more: she pretermitted the 
wieldings of her broom and duster in strict deference to his 
desire to be undisturbed. A devout Roman Catholic, she 
set up an altar in her quarters on the third floor. Never 
by word or sign did Captain Ericsson, a stanch Free- 
thinker, show disrespect to her faith or her devotions. 

With advancing years he became a recluse. Those who 
had business with him, and understood his ways, could 
always gain access to him ; but he allowed no visits of mere 
curiosity. Beneath his indifference to social usages, his 
heart throbbed as warmly as of old. On his last birthday 
the Swedish societies of New York honored him with a 
serenade. As he heard the melodies of his native land, his 
eyes filled with tears. When, at twenty-three, he sailed from 
Sweden, there he left his heart. 

When Ericsson entered his eighty-sixth year, his powers 
of mind and body plainly fell into declension. In Decem- 
ber of that year, 1888, he drew the plans for a small solar 
engine. On the ist of the following February he re- 
ceived this engine from a workshop. This, his final task, 


completed the cycle which began with the flame engine he 
had built in Jemtland, seventy years before. On February 
7th he was profoundly distressed by the death of his 
beloved friend, Cornelius H. Delamater, who passed away 
at the comparatively early age of sixty-seven. Depression 
of mind now aggravated feebleness of body. On February 
23d the iron courage of Ericsson gave way. His 
heart action was now so irregular that he consented, al- 
though with reluctance, to submit to medical treatment. His 
superb physique battled with disease until early in the 
morning of March 8, 1889, when he breathed his last. 

He had lived so long in solitude, and so far outlived the 
eras of the Princeton and the Monitor, that few were aware 
how great an engineer had for fifty years lived in New 
York, until they read the long and weighty record of his 
achievements. On March nth, his personal friends, 
with representatives of Swedish and other leagues, assem- 
bled at his house in Beach Street. Thence a funeral cortege 
proceeded to Trinity Church, where the burial service was 
read. The remains were then borne to a receiving vault in 
the Marble Cemetery, in Second Street. 

Through the sympathetic offices of the Secretary of 
State, the Hon. James G. Elaine, and the acting Secretary 
of the Navy, the Hon. James R. Soley, it was arranged 
that, in response to a desire expressed by the Swedish na- 
tion, the ashes of her famous son be sent to his native land. 
The Baltimore, a cruiser commanded by the late Admiral 
Winfield Scott Schley, then Captain, was accordingly com- 
missioned to transport the remains to Stockholm, sailing 
from New York, August 26, 1889. Nineteen days there- 
after, on September 14, the Baltimore dropped anchor in the 
Swedish capital. With honor and reverence the funeral 
train was greeted all the way from Stockholm to Filipstad, 
where the interment took place in the cemetery of the 
Lutheran Church. 


A CENTURY ago Virginia in population and wealth stood 
third in the sisterhood of States, closely following New 
York and Pennsylvania. So rich was her soil that her 
yield of wheat led the Union. In Virginia, then, one might 
reasonably expect a reaping-machine to appear. Let it 
prove itself to be worth while, and it would find acceptance 
not only at home, but in the regions west of Virginia, fast 
filling with newcomers, who were earning more as farmers 
than farmers ever earned before. It might further be ex- 
pected that a practical reaper would be built by a man as 
dexterous before an anvil as behind a plow, and withal a 
man forceful enough to create a market among folk dis- 
trustful of any contrivance more complicated than a fanning- 
mill or a grindstone. This man duly appeared in the person 
of Cyrus Hall McCormick, who is commonly supposed to 
have invented the reaper. That supposition is wrong. 
And yet, after all subtraction of undue credit, he stands 
head and shoulders above everybody else concerned in bid- 
ding engines and machines take drudgery from the nerves 
and muscles of farmers the world over. 
~~~ Cyrus Hall McCormick came of the hardy stock which, in 
the reign of James L, left Scotland for Ireland. Taxa- 
tion, unjustly heavy, followed them to Ulster. To escape 
^its burdens, they came to America. Many of the hardier 
spirits passed from Philadelphia, and other seaports, to 
frontier settlements west of the Susquehanna River, before 
the Indians ceded that territory to the Penns. Among these 
immigrants was Thomas McCormick, the great-grand- 
father of our hero, who, with his wife, Elizabeth Carruth, 
landed in America in 1735, and took up a farm near Har- 


[Engraved from a photograph and finished under the personal criticisms 
of Mrs. McCormick, by G. F. C. Smillie.] 


risburg, Pennsylvania. Seven years later he received from 
the Penns a large tract in Paxtang Township, Cumberland 
County, in the same State, and removed thither. Robert, 
the youngest of his five sons, in 1779 emigrated to Rock- 
bridge County, Virginia. He fought bravely in the revolu- 
tionary war, and was wounded in the battle of Guilford 
Court House. In 1780 a son was born to him, baptized as 
Robert, who became the father of Cyrus Hall McCormick. 
This second Robert McCormick, like many of his neigh- 
bors, joined a handicraft to his tillage of land. He was a 
weaver as well as a farmer. His skill with cogwheels and 
ratchets, no less than with hoes and harrows, spurred and 
fed the ingenuity of a man who sorely needed new ma- 
chinery, and patiently wrought his plans into wood and 
iron with such tools as he could command. 

Robert McCormick on February n, 1808, married Mary 
Anna Hall, the daughter of Patrick Hall, a farmer of Scot- 
tish-Irish blood. Their first child, Cyrus Hall, was born 
on February 15, 1809, at their homestead near the village 
of Midvale. Seven brothers and sisters followed him; of 
the eight children, he was much the most sturdy and 
energetic, with clear promise of winning any prize he set 
his heart upon. He attended the common schools of the 
district, and at fifteen swung a scythe in line with his 
father's reapers. To lighten his toil he built a cradle, so 
that he readily kept pace with his sinewy companions of full 
age. Like many another Virginian lad from George Wash- 
ington down, he took up land-surveying. A quadrant whicrT> 
he fashioned for this task was accurate and neatly finished. 
He afterward built a hillside plow, and a self-sharpening 
plow which he patented in 1831. But his horizon stretched 
itself far beyond his father's lands, wide though they were. 
Many years afterward, his sister Caroline said : " Cyrus was 
a smart boy and always very much indulged by my mother. 
She thought his opinion on every subject was just right, 


and if she differed from him on any point he never rested 
until he had convinced her that he was right. If Cyrus ever 
failed in getting his way with father, then he went to 
mother, and through her, he was generally successful. 
Cyrus never liked to work on the farm. I remember when 
I was about twelve his saying that he had a great desire to 
be rich, not liking the. life of a farmer." An amusing bit 
of testimony as to the standing of Cyrus in the family 
comes out in a letter from Isaac Irvine Kite, a neighbor, who 
says: " In 1842 my father by my request purchased for me 
of C. H. McCormick and Father, a reaper at $110. . . ." 
That suffix " and Father " is significant of much ! 

Robert McCormick added farm to farm until at last he 
^edajSoo^cres, a considerable estate, even in Virginia a 
hundred years ago. A river with a goodly fall swept 
through his land, so that he had plenty of water-power for 
his saw and grist mills, enterprises which still further drew 
out his talents as a maker and mender of machines. A 
good deal of hemp was then planted in the South. For its 
treatment when harvested Robert McCormick invented a 
brake and a horse-power for its actuation. Cyrus offered 
this brake for sale in Kentucky, where more hemp was 
grown than in Virginia. But he found no customers. This 
taught him a lesson he never forgot, to wit, that it is one 
thing to invent and build a machine, and quite another and 
more difficult feat to sell that machine. 

Long before he began to devise his hemp-brake Robert 
McCormick had busied himself modeling a reaper, for which 
his design went back as far as 1809, the year of Cyrus' 
birth. As this machine left his hands in 1831 its cutters 
were rotary saws eight to ten inches in diameter, revolving 
like shears past the edge of a stationary knife. They were 
driven by bands revolving around a cylinder turned by the 
main wheel of the reaper. Vertical reels pressed the grain 
against the cutters, and delivered the cut grain on a rear 


platform, where an endless apron carried it across the plat- 
form and delivered it beside the machine. In a later de- 
sign he employed stationary curved sickles as cutters, upon 
which the grain was forced by vertical reels having pins on 
their rims. 

This crude machine became the starting-point for the life- 
work of his son Cyrus. There has been a bitter controversy 
as to the parts played by the father and son respectively 
in devising the McCormick reaper. This is what Cyrus 
McCormick wrote to Philip Pusey, a leading member of 
Parliament, who was a judge at the Great Exhibition in 
London, 1851 : 

" My father was a farmer in the county of Rockbridge, 
State of Virginia, United States. He made an experiment 
in cutting grain in the year 1816, by a number of cylinders 
standing perpendicularly. Another experiment of the same 
kind was made by my father in the harvest of 1831, which 
satisfied my father to abandon it. Thereupon my attention 
was directed to the subject, and the same harvest I invented 
and put in operation in cutting late oats on the. farm of 
John Steele, adjoining my father's, those parts of my pres- 
ent reaper called the platform for receiving the grain, a 
straight blade taking effect on the grain, supported by sta- 
tionary fingers over the edge, and a reel to gather the grain, 
which last, however, I found had been used before, though 
not in the same combination. 

" Although these parts constituted the foundation of the 
present machine, I found in practice innumerable difficulties, 
being limited also to a few weeks each year, during the 
harvest, for experimenting, so that my first patent for the 
reaper was granted in June, 1834. 

" During this interval I was often advised by my father 
and family to abandon it, and pursue my regular business, as 
likely to be more profitable, he having given me a farm. 

" No machines were sold until 1840, and I may say they 
were not of much practical value until the improvements of 
my second patent in 1845. 

" These improvements consist in reversing the angle of 
the sickle teeth alternately the improved form of the 


fingers to hold up the grain, etc. an iron case to preserve 
the sickles from clogging, and a better mode of separating 
the grain to be cut. Up to this period nothing but loss of 
time and money resulted from my efforts. The sale now 
steadily increased, and is now more than a thousand yearly." 

McCormick, neither on this occasion nor on any other, ac- 
knowledged how much he owed to preceding inventors. 
Let us trace that indebtedness in a brief outline : 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Great Britain 
in mechanical invention led the world. For many genera- 
tions her soil had never been trodden by an invader; her 
silver seas had protected her from the strife and pillage 
suffered by Germany, Italy, and France. Her mines were 
rich in iron for the building of engines, machines, and rail- 
ways, and equally rich in coal for their motive-power. 
Following the triumph of Watt in devising his steam 
engine, her spinning- jennies had ousted her spinning-wheels ; 
steam-looms in Lancashire and Yorkshire had sent hand- 
looms by the thousand to the dust-bin. Why should British 
inventors stay indoors, why not invade farms and fields with 
machines to replace sickles and scythes? At harvest tide 
the weather was often wet, so that quick reaping machines 
would save many a thousand bushels of grain otherwise 
ruined by rain and wind. Then, too, such machines would 
save wages, always higher in Great Britain than in con- 
tinental Europe. Thus it came about that mechanical reap- 
ers were again and again attempted a hundred years ago in 
England and Scotland. Most of them never went beyond 
the stage of models for experiment. A few were built in 
working dimensions, only to be cast aside as utter failures. 
Two or three types had merit enough to stay hard at work 
for years, and transmit their strong points to modern ap- 
paratus. Let us take up the chief elements in reapers as 
they were successively brought out and united : 

First came the reel, somewhat like the frame on which 


fishermen dry their nets. This presses the grain against 
its cutters. A " rippling cylinder " in the machine invented 
by William Pitt, of Pendeford, England, in 1786, was a 
reel of a crude kind. It took off the heads of grain and 
delivered them in a box behind the strippers. The reel 
in an improved form was introduced by Henry Ogle in 1822, 
and independently by Patrick Bell in 1826. 

A reel presses grain upon cutters. Originally these were 
mere scythes, mounted radically on a spindle, and whirled 
through a crop. Joseph Boyce, who patented this rough- 
and-ready appliance in 1799, was succeeded by an implement 
maker in London, Thomas J. Plucknett, who used a circular 
saw instead. This cut grain fast enough, but it acted merely 
as a mower. What was wanted was a reaper, a device much 
more difficult to produce. It was Robert Salmon, of Wo- 


burn, who, in 1808, abandoned saws and hit upon the 
mechanism which, duly bettered, is the core of every har- 
vester to-day. He bade a long sharp knife glide to and 
fro across finger-like blades which firmly held the grain to be 
cut. All these machines at first were shoved in front of an 
ox, or a horse, as were the headers of ancient Gaul. Glad- 
stone, a millwright of Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, 
in 1808 invented the side-draught, as a much more conveni- 
ent mode of propulsion. His reaper had a circular table, 
with strong wooden teeth notched below it all around, fixed 
immediately above the cutter and parallel with it. These 
teeth collected the grain and held it to be cut. After being 
cut, the grain was received upon the table and taken away by 
a rake, or sweeper, and laid upon the ground. Gladstone 
included in his machine a small wheel covered with emery, 


applied to the cutter, so as to keep it always sharp. Joseph 
Mann, of Raby, in 1820, took the important step of gather- 
ing the grain when duly cut. He invented rakes which re- 
volved on a vertical axis whose teeth, six inches long, car- 
ried off the grain in swaths. And now, says Robert L. 
Ardrey, in " American Agricultural Implements," * we come 
to the most original, the cleanest, simplest, and greatest 
single invention ever made in harvesting machinery, that of 
Henry Ogle, a schoolmaster in Rennington, England, in 
1822, aided by Thomas and Joseph Brown, founders at 
Alnwick, near by. Ogle says : " I made a model, but not 
being a workman myself, and being on very friendly terms 
with Thomas Brown, a founder, and his son Joseph, I pre- 
sented it to them." Reciting their first efforts, which were 
unsatisfactory, he continues : 

" They then made the teeth, or guards, shorter, and tried 
it again, in a field of wheat. It then cut to greater perfec- 
tion, but still not laying the grain into sheaves, the farmers 
did not think that I lessened the expense much. Mr. Brown 
took it home again, and added the part for collecting the 
grain into a sheaf (G, G, the platform), when he tried it 
once more in a field of barley, which it cut down into 
sheaves remarkably well. Messrs. Brown then advertised, 
at the beginning of 1823, that they would furnish machines 
complete for sheaving grain. But farmers hesitated at the 
expense, and some working-people at last threatened to kill 
Mr. Brown if he persevered any further, and it has never 
been tried more." 

From the cutting it did it was estimated to have an aver- 
age capacity of fourteen acres per day. The illustration 
shows that this machine had the elements of the modern 
hand-raking reaper and dropper. It was drawn from the 
front side ; it was supported on two driving-wheels, and had 
an ordinary reel. It had a projecting bar with guard teeth, 
and a grain platform attached to the bar and behind it. 

* Published by the author, Chicago, 1894. 





3 D 


A, A, wheels, giving motion to all parts of reaper. B, B, B, 
frame ot machine. C, C, axle. D, D, frame of knife. E, E, knife. 
F, F, F, F, reel. G, G, G, G, platform. H, H, lever. M, center 
on which Y turns. Y, rod connecting wheels with knife. 

[From the Mechanics' 1 Magazine^ London, 1826.] 


Hinged, it was used as a dropper ; rigid, the grain was put 
off in gavels to one side. " Its frame or platform, G, G, 
when hinged," said Mr. Ogle, " is lifted till as much grain 
is collected as will be a sheaf, and let fall by a lever, H, H, 
over a fulcrum upon the frame, B, B, when the grain slides 
off. It was found, however, better when the grain was put 
off by a man with a fork toward the horse, as it is easier 
bound and leaves the stubble clear for the horse to go 

From the position of the lever it is certain that a seat was 
provided for the operator. As the grain " was put off by a 
man and a horse," not raked, the forker probably stood 
on the machine; unquestionably as the machine was made 
for use in the field, it had a grain-wheel, or shoe, a divider 
and inside gatherer, as these had been previously invented, 
described, and publicly used. It doubtless had other parts 
to make it fully practical, for in closing his description, Mr. 
Ogle says : " I have given only a part of the framing, as 
most mechanics have their own way of fixing the main 

Another source of information and help to all concerned 
arose in Scotland. In 1826, on quite independent lines, 
Patrick Bell, afterward a Presbyterian minister at Carmylie 
in Argyllshire, invented a reaper with a row of clipping 
shears as cutters. He brought it before the Highland and 
Agricultural Society, who appointed a committee to ex- 
amine the machine at work. Their report was favorable, 
so the Society awarded Mr. Bell fifty pounds as a premium 
for his invention, a model being placed in the Society's 
museum. Many years afterward, in 1867, the Rev. Mr. 
Bell gave the British Association at Aberdeen an account 
of his invention. The principal part of his paper appeared 
in the North British Agriculturist, of Edinburgh, on July 
10, 1907: 

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". . . From my earliest days I had a liking and turn for 
the study and practice of mechanics. I am the son of a 
farmer, and was accustomed from my early youth to wit- 
ness all the operations of the farm performed, and in most 
of them I engaged with my own hands. I was not a Pres- 
byterian minister during the time in which I invented the 
reaping machine, as is currently stated, but an alumnus of 
one of our national Universities the University of St. An- 
drews. A farmer's son, in my days at least, although an 
academic, would not have been allowed to study undis- 
turbed in his sanctum, and was liable, especially in the 
harvest season, to be summoned to wield the fork or some 
other implement of toil. At a very early period of my life I 
was most painfully struck with the very severe nature of the 
toil to which the harvest workers were subjected a toil 
made doubly oppressive sometimes by the heat of the 
weather, and always by the very awkward position in which 
they were obliged to stoop when engaged in their work. 
It may sound as an empty sentimentalism, but it is never- 
theless true, that a desire to mitigate such excessive toil led 
me to inquire whether there might not be a possibility of 
transferring part of it at least to beams of wood and bars 
of iron, supplemented by the bones and sinews of the horse. 
Sure I am that I had no intention of taking the people's 
bread from them; and had I been so taunted I believe that 
even then I could have demonstrated that the multiplica- 
tion and employment of machinery in agricultural work 
immediately promotes the increase of the people's bread, and 
does not ultimately tend to diminish the means of the peo- 
ple to obtain that bread. For years I had thought of the 
matter, and had diligently searched for some principle; 
and, taking one after another, I duly weighed the possi- 
bilities of their application to the object in view, and aban- 
doned them all as worthless. 

" One evening after tea, while walking in my father's 
garden, my eyes caught a pair of gardener's shears sticking 
in the hedge. I seized them by the handles, which pro- 
truded, and I proceeded to snap at the twigs of the thorns. 
My mind was full of mechanics at the time, and many hours 
were spent in my workshop ; and, contemplating the shears 
attentively, I insensibly said to myself, Here is a principle, 
and is there any reason why it should not be applied to the 


cutting down of grain? Not altogether satisfied with my 
performance on the hedge, I brushed through it, with the 
shears in my hand, to a field of young oats adjoining, and 
commenced cutting them right and left. It was well that 
no neighboring gossip saw me at the unwonted employ- 
ment, else the rumor might have been readily circulated 
that the poor student had gone crazed. For weeks, and for 
months, by night and by day, those shears were upper- 
most in my thoughts, and I searched anxiously and in- 
defatigably for the mode in which they should be employed. 
Plan after plan presented itself to me, and was put upon 
paper. The merits of each, and the likelihood of its suc- 
cess, were carefully scrutinized and pondered, and eventu- 
ally I fixed upon the plan, now successfully in operation. 
This took place in the summer of 1827. The next step was 
to construct a model, and to ascertain how thoughts would 
look when transferred to steel and iron. This was done, 
and it was during the process of making the little wooden 
frame and my puny cutters that the idea of a sloping can- 
vas for conveying the cut grain to the side occurred to me. 
My first idea was to place the canvas level with the ground, 
and it was merely because it was more conveniently situ- 
ated in the model, and pleased the eye better, that the 
angular position was adopted, so that in reality the posi- 
tion and the angle of the canvas were more matters of ac- 
cident than the result of consideration. Were the truth 
always known, I believe that much more important im- 
provements in mechanical science would be found to have 
a similar origin. Having finished my model and speculated 
as accurately and deeply as I was able upon the possibilities 
and probabilities of the actual results, I determined to have 
a machine constructed upon the large scale. For this pur- 
pose I had to pass out of my character of inventor into that 
of engineer and workman. The plan I took was this. After 
making my calculations as to size, etc., I joined a quantity 
of rough sticks together, and called them a frame. Then 
I made cutters of wood of every part that required to be 
made of iron and steel. I sent these, piece by piece, as I 
required them, to the blacksmith, with the instructions to 
make a thing of iron as like the wooden ones sent as possible. 
When I got a few of the pieces from the smith, I finished 
them with the file, and secured each to its proper place. I 


remember the cutters gave me a world of trouble and vex- 
ation. When they came into my hands they were in a very 
rude state, and required much filing, grinding, and fitting. 
By dint of patient application I got the whole into a suf- 
ficiently perfect state, as I thought, for trial. 

" It may amuse you, perhaps, if I give you some account 
of the first field I cut. That you may understand this, 
imagine an empty outhouse, rather long and narrow, hav- 
ing in one end a wright's bench, and in the other a rude- 
looking piece of mechanism, an embryo reaping machine. 
For my subsequent operations I chose a quiet day, that is, a 
day when there were few people about the place. On that 
day an eavesdropper might have seen me busily but stealth- 
ily engaged in conveying earth in a common wheelbarrow 
into the workshop. When the place between the bench and 
the rude but ambitious candidate for the honors of the 
harvest field was covered to the depth of some six inches, I 
proceeded to compress the loose mold with my feet. I 
next went to an old stack that happened to be in the barn- 
yard, and, drawing a sheaf of oats out of it, and carrying 
it to the workshop, I planted it stalk by stalk at about the 
same thickness I knew it would have grown in the field. 
This done, I shut and barred the door, and then, going be- 
hind the machine, I pushed it forward with all my might 
through my planted oats. As soon as I recovered my 
breath, I anxiously examined how the work had been done. 
I found that it had been all very well cut, but was lying 
'higgledy-piggledy, in such a mess as would have utterly dis- 
graced me in the harvest field. Upon the whole, however, 
I was not discouraged, but rather encouraged by this first 
experiment. The cutting was perfect, and that was the first 
great point I then aimed at. 

"Although by this experiment I had proved my new in- 
vention to be a cutting machine, it certainly little deserved 
to be dignified with the name of reaping machine, and yet it 
was a reaping machine I had set my heart upon constructing. 
Had I at this stage been content to summon a man with a 
rake to do the work of wheels and pinions, my machine was 
complete; and had I been contented with a combination, I 
would have saved myself a host of trouble, and what to me 
at the time was no small expenditure of money. My work- 
shop was again speedily cleared of earth and loam, and made 


ready for the jack-plane and piles. I proceeded forthwith 
to put the canvas in order. One might naturally suppose 
that this would be an easy matter, but I did not find it so. 
After the rollers were put in position, the wheels for driving 
them adjusted, and the canvas stretched and fixed upon 
the rollers the proper tightness, I conceived in my simplicity 
that the work was done, and my object secured. The result 
was otherwise; for, on pushing the machine forward only 
the length of the house, I found that it twisted, and would 
have been torn in pieces if it had proceeded many yards 
forward. I proceeded now to make grooves at the end of 
the rollers, in which I placed a small rope. To these ropes, 
one at the top and the other at the bottom of the rollers, I 
sewed the canvas, expecting that the ropes and canvas 
would move together in uniformity, and that my object 
would thus be obtained; but, upon trial, I was a second 
time disappointed. The ropes, from inequality in the 
grooves, moved irregularly, and the canvas became twisted 
as before. For a time I was nonplused and dispirited, but, 
plucking up courage, and ruminating over mechanical ap- 
pliances, I thought of the pitched chains. Having made 
some six inches of such a chain out of a piece of old iron 
hoop, I sent the same as a pattern to the blacksmith, with an 
order to make for me so many feet of chain like the model 
sent. Having received the chains, and put them in their 
place, the canvas was speedily attached, and the machine 
was prepared to meet the third trial of its construction 
which had now been made. The wheelbarrow was again in 
requisition, and another visit made to the old stack in the 
barnyard, and the process of dibbling another sheaf gone 
through. The door was again shut, and, palpitating with 
expectation, I pushed the machine forward. To my un- 
speakable satisfaction the oats were not only nicely cut, but 
were lying almost unanimously by the side of the machine 
in one even continuous row, as I had confidently expected. 
You may smile, but I complimented myself sensibly, I think, 
on my success, being convinced that I had converted the im- 
plement from a cutting to a reaping machine. All this took 
place in 1828. Until the crops were ripe nothing more 
could be done. I was in high excitement and hope, and I 
waited patiently for the ripening of the grain. In the mean- 
time I revolved in my mind, with anxious and provident 


hope, everything that was likely to happen when the actual 
trial in the open field should come to be made. I was fear- 
ful that there should happen to me what I knew had hap- 
pened to many an experimenter before who performs his 
experience to a wish in the laboratory or workshop, but 
who utterly fails when he actually adjourns to the actual do- 
main of nature or art. I had observed in my experiment 
upon the pigmy and artificial field in the workshop that 
while the oats upon the whole came to the canvas, and 
were regularly removed to its side, nevertheless some 
seeds straggled away capriciously in different and adverse 
directions. And yet I could not forget that in the work- 
shop all was calm, and that I had the elements greatly un- 
der my own control, but that in the open field the blowing 
wind might multiply the capricious stragglers and fan the 
flame of disunion, and damage the success of the operation. 
It was an anticipation of this kind that induced me to think 
of the reel or collector. Having plenty of time before har- 
vest, I constructed this part of the implement, and laid it 
past, to be used or not as the emergencies of the field might 

" The period now approached that was to decide the 
merits of the machine. That night I will never forget. 
Before the corn was perfectly ripe (I had not patience to 
wait for that), a young brother of mine and I resolved to 
have a quiet and unobserved start by ourselves. That could 
not be got while the sun was in the heavens, nor for a con- 
siderable time after he was set; and, accordingly, about 
eleven o'clock at night, in a dark autumn evening, when- 
every man, woman, and child were in their beds, the ma- 
chine was quietly taken from its quarters, and the good 
horse Jock was yoked to it, and we trio wended our way 
through a field of lea to one of standing wheat beyond it, 
my brother and I the meanwhile speaking to one another in 
whispers. We reached our destination, and the machine 
was put in position right in the end of a ridge. My duty 
was to look ahead, and my brother's to guide the horse. I 
gave the word of command to go on, and on the implement 
went; but it had not proceeded above five or six yards 
when I called upon my brother to stop. Upon examining 
the work we found it far from satisfactory. The wheat 
was well enough cut, but it was lying in a bundle before the 


machine. For a moment we were both downcast ; but, 
recollecting myself, I had yet great hope, and said so, the 
whole of the machine not being used, the reel or collector 
having been left behind. I ran across the field and brought 
the reel, and everything connected with it, upon my shoul- 
ders, and adjusted it as well as the darkness of the night 
would permit, and we were soon ready for a second start. 
Taking our positions respectively as before, the machine 
moved forward, and now all was right. The wheat was 
lying by the side of the machine as prettily as any that has 
been ever cut by it since. After this we merely took it 
back again to the end of the ridge, and made a cut with the 
open edge to ascertain how the swathes would lie upon the 
stubble, with which being well pleased, we, after some par- 
donable congratulations, moved the machine back to its old 
quarters as quickly and quietly as possible." 

In Loudon's " Cyclopedia of Agriculture," published in 
London in 1831, the Bell reaper was depicted and described 
with the utmost clearness. Similar machines were also pre- 
sented, but not with the same fulness, because of much 
less promise. At that time Great Britain far surpassed 
America in her forges, foundries, and machine shops, turn- 
ing out models incomparably better. Hence it was that in 
America the builders of reapers, as well as the builders of 
steam engines, locomotives, and looms, at first did little else 
than copy British designs. The earliest American patent 
for a reaper having a vibrating cutter was granted on May 
3, 1831, to William Manning, of Plainfield, New Jersey. As 
we shall see, the patents to Cyrus Hall McCormick and to 
his chief rival, Obed Hussey, were issued respectively two 
and three years later. 

When the Bell machine underwent its original test, James 
Slight was curator of the Highland and Agricultural So- 
ciety, under whose auspices the test took place. In its 
"Transactions," published in 1852 in Edinburgh, he said: 
" This reaper soon worked its way to a considerable suc- 
cess in Forfarshire. In the harvest of 1834 I saw several 



sifei ! 


< CQ 



of them at work, all giving satisfaction. They were manu- 
factured in Dundee, and thence found their way throughout 
the country. Four of them went to the United States of 
America. This renders it highly probable that they became 
the models from which the many so-called inventions of the 
American reaper have since sprung. At the Exhibition held 
in New York, in 1851, six reapers were shown, each claim- 
ing to be an original invention. Yet in all of them the prin- 
cipal feature, the cutting apparatus, bears the strongest evi- 
dence of having been copied from Bell's machine. There 
are slight variations, as might naturally be expected, in the 
cutters, but the original Bell type is evident throughout. It 
is remarkable, too, that in Hussey's reaper, which appears 


to have been brought out first in the Union, there is the 
closest possible resemblance to the Bell reaper." 

" In a few cases," says Mr. Slight, in these pages of 1852, 
"the Bell reaper has been kept in operation up to the present 
time. One of the most interesting of these cases is that of 
George Bell, of Inch-Michael in the Carse of Cowrie, a 
brother of the inventor. Mr. Bell has a strong natural bias 
toward mechanics, and during fourteen years in which he 
has regularly worked his reaper he has taken particular 
pleasure in seeing it put in proper working order at the 
commencement of the harvest ; so prepared, it is then man- 
aged with perfect success by any plowman of ordinary in- 
telligence. By these simple precautions Mr. Bell has been 
enabled in the most satisfactory manner to reap on an aver- 
age four-fifths of all his grain crops every year; the re- 
maining fifth, more or less, according to the season, being 
too much laid for the machine, has been reaped by the 
scythe. The expense of machine-reaping has in this case 


been found not to exceed 3 shillings and 6 pence (85 cents) 
per imperial acre. Under these favorable views of the ef- 
ficiency and economy of Bell's reaper, a question naturally 
arises, What has been the cause of such a machine falling 
so much into disuse? One obvious reason is that all the 
best reaping machines herein referred to may very appropri- 
ately be said to have appeared before their time that is to 
say, before the soil on which they were to act had been 
prepared for their reception. In the first quarter of the nine- 
teenth century, furrow draining, leveling high ridges, and 
filling up the old intervening furrows, were only beginning 
to assume their due prominence in the practice of agricul- 
ture. So long as these improvements remained in abey- 
ance, the surface of the land was ill suited for such opera- 
tions as those of a reaping machine. Hence serious ob- 
stacles presented themselves; as these are fast being re- 
moved, there is a prospect of a more successful application 
of machinery of all kinds being brought to bear upon the 
the operations of the farm. 

" In the process of working this machine, Mr. Bell's 
practice is to employ one man to drive and conduct the ma- 
chine; eight women are required to collect the cut grain 
into sheaves and make bands for them; four men to close 
and bind the sheaves, and two men to set them up in stocks 
in all fourteen pairs of hands, besides the driver, will 
traverse 12 imperial acres per day. . . . 

" McCormick's machine, which on its first appearance in 
England had its cutters nearly identical with those of Bell, 
has latterly been fitted with one long straight-edged and 
finely serrated cutter, giving, apparently, a new character to 
the machine, though, in fact, it is no more than engrafting 
a new idea upon the original Bell machine. Mr. McCor- 
mick has also gone a step beyond his neighbor, Mr. Hus- 
sey, by taking from our original also the revolving vanes 
[reel] in front for collecting and holding the grain to the 
cutter. By these means the machine is made more effective, 
and operates with the assistance of but one man upon the 
machine besides the driver." 

Nearly twenty years after Mr. Slight thus discussed 
the indebtedness of McCormick to the Rev. Patrick Bell, 


the friends of that inventor bestirred themselves, though 
tardily, to do him honor. In January, 1868, the Highland 
and Agricultural Society in Edinburgh presented the Rev. 
Mr. Bell with one thousand pounds sterling subscribed by 
his friends and admirers throughout the United Kingdom. 
In acknowledgment, the inventor said: 

" My feelings are very different this day from what 
they were forty years ago when I left my father's house 
on a cold winter morning, and took my seat upon the top of 
the Edinburgh coach, for the purpose of making my first 
bow to this honorable Society. On that occasion I was full 
of fears and trembling, afraid that my invention would turn 
out a mere chimera, arid trembling when I thought of com- 
ing before learned and scientific men. I had a small wooden 
model of the machine under my arm, which looked like 
anything rather than a design for cutting grain. As my 
friends advised me before I started, I waited upon the Sec- 
retary of the Society, Sir Charles Gordon, to hear what he 
would say about it. Sir Charles examined my model at- 
tentively, declared he was no mechanic, and, consequently, 
would give no opinion upon the matter, but added, he would 
be glad to introduce me to a celebrated mechanic who lived 
in the town, Sir John Graham Dalyell. I went, accord- 
ingly, to Sir John's house, and explained my model to him, 
it looked more like a rat-trap than anything else I know of. 
Sir John looked at it, and said it was a very difficult thing 
to give a decided opinion upon the model of any contrivance 
that would be able to cut a standing crop of grain in an 
efficient manner. But, so far as he was able to judge, the 
model looked like a thing that would do so, and he recom- 
mended me to get a machine constructed upon a large scale 
after the pattern of my model, and try it next harvest. 
This was the first encouragement to prosecute my idea that I 
had received. The horizon of my imaginings grew brighter, 
and I was able to speak, even to Sir John, in more confident 
terms. When I got home a large machine was immediately 
set about being constructed ; it was finished before harvest, 
started amongst the standing grain before it was ripe, and it 
worked very well, and I was obliged to Sir John for the 


friendly advice he gave me. Had he condemned the prin- 
ciple of my reaper, it might never have gone a step further." 

McCormick always kept his lips firmly closed as to the 
sources of his successive models. Whatever they were, he 
gave them diligent study, careful experiment, and such 
changes in detail as work in the field demanded. He built 
his first machine, he tells us, in 1831, testing and improving 
it for nearly three years. Only on June 21, 1834, did he 
obtain a patent, the first in a long series covering his 


[From "Who Invented the Reaper?" by R. B. Swift, Chicago, McCormick 
Harvesting Machine Co., 1897.] 

reaper in its later developments. Almost incredibly loose 
was the management of the Patent Office in the early dec- 
ades of the nineteenth century. " At that time," said Ed- 
mund Burke, Commissioner in 1852, " the Patent Office 
made no examination upon the points of originality and 
priority of invention, but granted all patents applied for, 
as a matter of course." As already stated, a reaper with a 
vibrating cutter, plainly of British origin, was patented by 
William Manning, of Plainfield, New Jersey, on May 3, 
1831. A cutter, much the same, was patented by Obed Hus- 
sey on December 31, 1833. On June 21, 1834, McCor- 
mick's first patent was issued, including a vibrating cutter. 


That Manning's claim was prior to that of Hussey, and of 
McCormick, was promptly pointed out in the Journal of the 
Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.* Manning, for some un- 
recorded reason, dropped out of the running and was heard 
from no more. Hussey, who proved to be an inventor of 
mark, remained in the field, and for many years stoutly op- 
posed McCormick. His improvements survive to this day. 

A few months before the issue of his patent, McCormick 
offered reapers at thirty dollars each in the columns of the 
Union, of Lexington, Virginia. Thus early did he show 
his ability as an advertiser: his offer was supplemented by 
four testimonials from neighboring farmers who had used 
the machine with success. Next year, 1834, the attention 
of the McCormicks, father and son, was withdrawn from 
reapers and riveted upon a smelting enterprise. In part- 
nership with John Black, they bought the Cotopaxi Fur- 
nace on the South River, about two miles from their home- 
stead. Robert McCormick supplied nearly all the capital 
invested, opening an account for the firm with a leading 
bank in Richmond. The business proved a failure, and the 
panic of 1837 dealt it a mortal blow. Black withdrew from 
the bank all the cash there deposited, about $12,000 in all, 
and put his property beyond the grasp of his creditors. 
Robert McCormick lost about $18,000 in this venture, 
which threatened him with bankruptcy. His lawyer sug- 
gested that he divest himself of his farms, to evade pressing 
claims. " No," said he, " I would rather die and leave my 
children without a cent, than that it should ever be said that 
their father had been a dishonest man ! " Eventually, by 
dint of hard work and close economy, he paid off every 
dollar of his debts, as became a man of scrupulous honor. 

When the Cotopaxi Furnace, empty and cold, had become 

* Manning's patent is briefly described in \ht Journal of the Frank' 
lin Institute, Vol. VIII.: p. 195. 1831. Hussey's is given, Vol. XIV.: 
P. 37. 1834; and McCormick's, Vol. XV.: p. 44, 1835. 


dusty with neglect, Cyrus McCormick reverted to his reaper, 
which he felt might lift him out of his financial slough. 
First of all, he must bring the machine before the public. 
In the fall of 1839, accordingly, on the farm of Joshua 
Smith, near Staunton, Virginia, he gave the first of many 
thousand public exhibitions. With two men and a team of 
horses he cut wheat at the rate of two acres an hour. Won- 
derful ! There was loud applause and no buying. Why ? 

Farm tools in that day were few and simple, so that they 
could be easily made by a country blacksmith and kept in 
repair at home. It was plain that McCormick's reaper did 
the work of ten men, but its intricate mechanism was guided 
by a dexterous man, familiar for months with its cogs, 
levers, and blades. Onlookers said with united breath : " It 
is a marvel, sure enough, but we are running farms and not 
circuses." McCormick had to wait until 1840 for his first 
customer, Abraham Smith, of Egypt, in Rockingham 
County, Virginia, who had seen the reaper at work near 
Staunton. He highly resolved to part with thirty dollars 
and take home a machine. In 1841, the next year, Mc- 
Cormick did not effect a single sale, so he took occasion to 
improve the build of his reaper. He was now convinced 
that he had a machine which deserved a market, and that 
market he was determined to create there and then. Forti- 
fied with an indorsement from Abraham Smith, he decided 
on $100 as his price, and became a salesman at that figure. 
By dint of a persistence that never took no for an answer, 
he sold seven reapers in 1842, twenty-nine in 1843, and fifty 
in 1844. Thus, after thirteen years of struggle and defeat, 
he came to victory. It was now time to relinquish farming 
for good and all, and restrict himself to manufacturing and 
selling his reaper. Instead of tilling one farm, he was to 
take a hand in reaping a million farms the world over. 

His beginnings were slow. But soon from the West 
came messages of cheer, orders in quick succession for 


seven reapers. Two farmers in Tennessee, one each in Wis- 
consin, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio, wanted ma- 
chines. McCormick now clearly saw that his farmstead 
was not the place for a reaper factory. It was too far East, 
for one reason. Through delays in transit four of the seven 
ordered reapers arrived too late for that season's harvest. 
A friend said to him : " Cyrus, why don't you go West with 
your reaper, where land is level and labor scarce ? " His 
mind was ripe for that golden hint. His reaper should 
henceforth be built and sold in the West, where it was 
most needed. One morning, soon afterward, he put three 
hundred dollars into his belt and set out on a jaunt of 
three thousand miles. He went by stage through Pennsyl- 
vania to Lake Erie, thence to the leading ports of Lake 
Ontario. Next he proceeded through Ohio, Michigan, Illi- 
nois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri, shrewdly comparing 
town with town, port with port, State with State. He now 
saw prairies for the first time, so flat and fertile that they 
seemed to have been specially created to give play to his 
reaper. The fields visibly beckoned for machinery faster 
than the scythes and sickles imported from Eastern hills 
and dales. Virginia, with her rolling, irregular land, might 
possibly be persuaded to use the reaper ; the West, smooth, 
treeless, and stoneless, simply must have the reaper at 
once. As McCormick drove through Illinois he saw hogs 
and cattle feeding on broad stretches of ripe grain, because 
laborers were lacking for scythes and cradles. Illinois 
that year grew five million bushels of wheat, vastly more 
than her farmhands could cut. The shortness of time for 
harvesting, but four to ten days, offered McCormick his 
supreme opportunity. His rapid machine, forestalling bad 
weather, would save millions of bushels which otherwise 
would rot on the ground. 

McCormick returned home with broadened views and 
quickened pulse. He would forthwith patent his reaper in 


an improved design, and press its sale far and wide, espe- 
cially in the prairie country he had just explored. His 
drawings and specifications were soon in his satchel, for 
he was always the soul of despatch, and the next week found 
him in Washington, where his second patent was granted 
on January 31, 1845. McCormick's reaper, as now im- 
proved, had its blade serrated like a sickle, with the angle 
reversed at each alternate tooth ; the blade had its sup- 
porters screwed on the front of the platform, bent in such 
wise as to let straw freely escape. The fingers, or guards, 
to hold the grain while being cut, were spear-shaped. The 
lower end of his reel post was placed behind the blade, and 
curved forward at its top, where it was securely braced. 

McCormick, while in Washington, not only obtained a 
patent for distinct and important improvements on his 
reaper, he took a long stride toward success as a manu- 
facturer. Among the public men whom he met at the 
capital was the Honorable E. B. Holmes, of BrocEport, 
New York, who told him that Seymour & Morgan had just 
established in Brockport a factory of farm implements, 
where reapers of good quality could be produced at low 
cost. He pointed out that Brockport was halfway betwixt 
the Eastern and Western markets, which McCormick was 
about to invade. McCormick at once proceeded to Brock- 
port. Says Robert L. Ardrey, in " American Agricultural 
Implements " : 

' The machine McCormick brought with him was very 
crude. There was no driver's seat, and the man who 
raked off walked alongside the platform. The gearing was 
imperfect, and the sickle was but a thin, straight strip 
of steel, on the front edge serrated reversely every four or 
five inches of its length, and liable to be clogged at the 
slightest provocation. Yet, though so coarse, immature, 
and imperfect, it was a machine with which it was possible 
to cut grain when all the conditions were favorable. Trials 
suggested improvements. It was cut down a little here, 



strengthened a little there, and generally brought into better 
form. The raker sat astride a saddle provided for him in 
the rear of the gearing, and used an ordinary hand-rake, 
but the driver rode a horse, or walked, for still there was no 
seat. It was arranged that Seymour & Morgan build a 
quantity of McCormick reapers, as improved, for the fol- 
lowing season's harvest. Accordingly, for the harvest of 
1846, one hundred of these machines were made and sold, 
the first large quantity of reapers ever manufactured. As 
an example of the primitive methods then usual, a portion 
of the spear-shaped guard-fingers of these machines were 
let out to country blacksmiths, to be forged at 24 cents 
each, as well as the machine bolts at 4^ cents. For each 
piece the iron, cut in proper lengths, was furnished by 
Seymour & Morgan. Next year, by using swages, the 
guard-fingers were made at their shops for less than half 
the price paid to blacksmiths. A little later they were made 
of cast-iron. In 1848, the original McCormick patent ex- 
pired, and the manufacture of McCormick reapers ceased at 
the Brockport factory." 

On October 23, 1847, shortly before he ceased to have 
his reapers produced in Brockport, McCormick obtained a 
third patent. It included for the first time a seat for the 
raker ; such a seat had been provided by Hussey on his ma- 
chine as far back as 1833, and in all likelihood it appeared in 
Ogle's reaper of 1822. To balance this seat and its oc- 
cupant, McCormick now placed his driving-wheel further 
back than in his former machines, rearranging the gearing 
with a new compactness. 

McCormick sagaciously noted that the railroads were 
fast stretching westward, and his keen gaze saw .the broad 
zones of arable land thus brought within the swing of his 
reaper. He felt that the time had come to build machines 
in a factory of his own. But where? Its site should be 
at the center of these rich prairies, preferably at a port on 
a great lake. With painstaking diligence he studied a 
map of the Western States, and ended by placing his fore- 


finger on Chicago, then a raw town of about 10,000 popula- 
tion. This choice was one of the master strokes of his 
career. At that time Milwaukee, Cleveland, and St. Louis 
were more thriving than Chicago, but to this discerning 
judge they were cities of less promise. He saw that Chi- 
cago, for all its mud and shabbiness, stood at the very focus 
of Western trade. Here he could best assemble steel and 
iron from Scotland and Pennsylvania, and lumber from the 
forests of Michigan, and hence he could ship his bulky ma- 
chines, eastward or westward, at minimum charges for 

When McCormick voted for Chicago, he did so with 
empty hands. It behooved him to cast about for a backer 
who would advance capital for the execution of his projects. 
He found him in William B. Ogden, *who had been the first 
mayor of the city, and was still its civic leader and arbiter. 
Said he to the Virginian : " You are the man we want. I 
will give you $25,000 for a half-interest in this reaper busi- 
ness. Let us build the factory at once." Thereupon the 
firm of McCormick, Ogden & Company was born, soon to 
rear its premises on the site where, in 1804, J onn Kinzie 
had built the first house in Chicago. Here five hundred 
reapers were manufactured for the harvest of 1848, and the 
business fast prophesied the stupendous expansions since 
recorded. But if two men ride a horse, one must ride be- 
hind. Neither McCormick nor Ogden could long occupy 
a back seat, for both men by temper and habit were im- 
perious and unyielding. In 1849 their partnership came 
to an end, McCormick paying Ogden $25,000 for profits and 

McCormick soon realized that his business was to take 
on dimensions which would forbid his handling anything 
more than the rudder. He thereafter confined himself to 
sketching the broad outlines of his campaigns, committing 
the details to his brothers, Leander and William, whom he 



admitted to partnership. Before long he laid down rules of 
action from which he never swerved, and which contributed 
as much as his great executive ability to his success. First 
of all, he produced a machine of high merit, from year to 
year embodying every improvement worthy of inclusion. 
He gave his reapers the widest possible publicity, through an 
army of tactful and tireless agents, and by means of field 
contests sustained for years. His newspaper advertise- 
ments were liberal to prodigality. His customers once at- 

[From "The Illustrated Exhibitor," London, 1851.] 

tracted, he made them his friends. "He sold at invariable 
prices, giving a written guarantee with each machine. A 
dissatisfied buyer had his" cash returned without parley. A 
responsible agent in every town worth while gave instruc- 
tion to inexperienced buyers, while he sold and fitted repair 
parts on moderate terms. This energy, sagacity, and in- 
tegrity were amply rewarded. Soon McCormick's busi- 
ness had become so prosperous that he cast wistful glances 
across the sea. Why not add markets in Europe to markets 
in America? For this a door opened with the inaugural of 
World's Fairs by the Great Exhibition held in London in 
1851. Thither McCormick sent an array of reapers, as did 


Obed Hussey, his chief rival at home. Hussey faced the 
McCormick machine in a competition witnessed by thou- 
sands of farmers and farmhands. Hussey 's reaper was in 
charge of a raw recruit, who mismanaged it, so that the 
medal went to McCormick. At Ormesby, near Middles- 
borough-on-Tees, a second contest took place, in which the 
palm went to Hussey. 

These tests, following, as they did, the daily inspection 
of the American reapers by thousands of visitors to the 
Crystal Palace, deeply stirred the British public. The local 
press declared that every essential feature of these machines 
had long been devised in England and Scotland, and ap- 
proved itself in years of constant use. It was the vast 
breadths of level land in America that had given the reaper 
an opportunity for which British farms could offer no 
parallel. So far as McCormick was concerned, his exhibits 
in London had two permanent results. He received an ad- 
vertisement of immense value, assuring the success of the 
branches he established throughout Europe. The second 
item appeared on the opposite side of his ledger. His op- 
ponents at home, always numerous and troublesome, were 
greatly heartened by the onslaughts of his foreign critics. 
His patents were attacked in court and out of court, and, 
in the main, with success. When he sought renewals of 
these patents, his basic claims were decided to be unfounded. 
He was wont to aver that his income had been derived 
not from royalties as an inventor, but from profits as a 
manufacturer. One of his suits has a place in history. In 
1856 McCormick sued Talcott, Emerson & Company for in- 
fringement of patents. The counsel in defense were 
George Harding, of Philadelphia, the eminent patent lawyer, 
Edwin M. Stanton, and Abraham Lincoln, whose retaining 
fee was $1,000. Mr. Lincoln did not argue the case, but 
he closely followed its proceedings, forming a high opinion 
of the acumen of Stanton, whom he afterward chose as his 


Secretary of War. To Stanton went the decision against 

And now let us return to the reaper which, undoubtedly 
British in its creation, has been developed in America, step 
by step, until it has become the self-binding harvester. In 
each successive stride of this evolution McCormick was, of 
course, vitally interested as the leading manufacturer in 
the world. In 1849 a McCormick reaper had been fur- 
nished by J. J. and H. F. Mann, of Indiana, with a mov- 
ing platform, which carried the cut grain to a wagon along- 
side. This was good, but why should good stand in the 
way of better? In 1858, Charles W. and William W. 
Marsh, two brothers of Canadian nativity, residing in De 
Kalb, Illinois, were using a Mann machine, when Charles 
asked William : " Why should this grain be carried up to 
a wagon ? Why not put a footboard on this machine, where 
two men can stand while they bind the grain as fast as it is 
carried up ? " This idea proved sound when, a few weeks 
afterward, it was tested in the first Marsh harvester. That 
machine held the field for ten years or more. It did not 
dismiss the human binder, but, as he could now stand up 
straight, he worked twice as fast as before, and with com- 
parative ease. While the Marsh harvester in itself scored a 
decided advance, it put inventors on the track of the self- 
binder, that climax of mechanical ingenuity. For this the 
chief requirement was a knotter. This came first from 
Charles B. Withington; a later and better device was in- 
vented by John F. Appleby.* 

Charles B. Withington, like Ottmar Mergenthaler, en- 
tered the arena of invention through a watchmaker's shop. 
As a youth, at Janesville, Wisconsin, to earn a little pocket 
money, he went into the fields near home to bind grain. 
He was so slight in build that the toil was unendurably 

* Charles W. Marsh's "Recollections 1837 1910," were published 
in 1910, by the Farm Implement News Co., Chicago. 


severe. This impelled him to devise a machine to abolish 
the fell drudgery of binding by hand. His first self-binder 
was put together in 1872, to be manufactured and sold by 
Walter A. Wood, at Hoosick Falls, New York. Two 
years later the inventor struck a bargain with McCormick, 
who thereafter produced the machine. Its design was 
highly ingenious. Two steel arms caught each bundle of 
grain, whirled a wire around it, fastened the ends of that 
wire with a twist, then cut the bundle loose and cast it 
to the ground. A Withington machine was tested for Mc- 
Cormick on the Sherwood Farm, near Elgin, Illinois. It 
cut and bound fifty acres of wheat without a slip. Harvest- 
ing had at last dismissed all hands but a driver for the 
horses. Sicklers and cradlers, rakers and binders, were at 
a stroke paid off. 

Withington was not the only inventor in his field. The 
brothers James F. and John H. Gordon, of Rochester, New 
York, devised a self-binder manufactured by D. M. Os- 
borne & Company, of Auburn, in the same State. In its 
latest form this machine afforded means of shifting the 
binder to accommodate various lengths of grain. This 
feature survives in all modern machines. But the Withing- 
ton and Gordon binders, with all other machines of the 
same class, harbored a fatal defect in their use of wire. 
This wire fell into straw and killed cattle : it became mixed 
with wheat to strike fire in flour mills and burn them down. 
It lacerated the fingers of grain handlers at docks, eleyators, 
and railroad stations. Deering, a formidable rival to Mc- 
Cormick, came into the market with a binder which used 
twine instead of wire. This competition had to be met, so 
McCormick engaged Marquis L. Gorham to devise a binder 
of distinct pattern which should use twine. This was duly 
accomplished, and the Gorham machine was at once placed 
on sale by the vast round of McCormick agencies. Twine- 
binders gave a strong impulse to every harvester factory in 


America, supplying, as they did, the one link which had 
been lacking in a machine otherwise perfect. In 1860 about 
60,000 reapers were sold in America; by 1885 tne figure 
had reached 250,000, more than four times as many. Most 
of these machines were the " Appleby." Just here a word 
of comment by Robert L. Ardrey is worth repeating : " Ap- 
pleby's success was not due to the newness of the devices he 
applied, or to the surpassing character of Appleby's genius, 
although he has been a persistent and clearheaded inventor ; 
but it would seem that the ingenuity of a number of in- 
ventors, running in the same direction, had become massed 
or dammed before certain common obstructions, beyond 
which they could not flow. It was reserved for him to 
combine in his binder, built upon the Marsh harvester, the 
most practical of these principles, directing the best efforts 
of many predecessors into one channel, and by adding de- 
vices of his own to remove the obstructions, thus opening the 
way for the flood that followed." 

While twine-binders were fast broadening the tilled 
areas of the West and the Northwest, with equal step went 
a remarkable change in the manufacturing world. Year by 
year, while the sale of self-binders swept steadily upward, 
the number of producers became fewer and fewer: the era 
of big production had dawned, the " Harvester trust," with 
its nation-wide grasp, was not far away. Many firms were 
squeezed out of business through lack of capital. Small 
shops, with comparatively simple outfits, could not furnish 
an intricate machine, of standard quality, at the low price 
then current. Yet that price, on the prodigious turnover 
of McCormick, netted him a huge fortune. 

Striking is the contrast between the first reaper that 
McCormick made and the self-binding harvester he was 
now manufacturing. In its elaborate mechanism its in- 
ventors had repeated their own nerves and muscles, and 
even their brains. It cut its grain, carried it on a canvas 


elevator to steel bands which shaped it into bundles, neatly 
tied a cord around each bundle, and then cut the cord. This 
bound sheaf was then pushed into a basket and held until 
five sheaves were collected, when they were dropped to 
the ground. Since 1884, the year of McCormick's death, 
there has been no essential change in the self-binder. 
Within his span of seventy-five years he saw the reaper 
born and gradually flower into this wonderful self-acting 

Machines, as they have taken the place of tools on Amer- 
ican farms, have wrought an advance comparable with that 
ushered in when tillers of the soil first equipped themselves 
with picks and spades, plows and scythes. In 1904, Mr. 
H. W. Quaintance published " The Influence of Farm Ma- 
chinery on Production and Labor," in the series of the 
American Economic Association. In contrasting 1896 with 
1830, he found that the cost of producing wheat had in 
sixty years fallen as much as 72 per cent. In this result 
harvesting machinery had played the chief part. Figures 
much more striking are recorded in the Far West, where 
headers are employed to gather the crops : 

" On California and Oregon farms, fifty horse-power 
traction engines are at work. Each one drags sixteen ten- 
inch plows, four six-feet harrows, and a press-drill for 
planting seed-wheat. One engine thus performs the triple 
labor of plowing, harrowing, and planting at once. One 
machine plants with wheat fifty to seventy-five acres in a 
day, mounting hilly and rough ground as easily as it 
traverses a dead level. When the grain is ripe, a harvester 
is, by the same means, pulled across the fields. Its cutters 
are twenty to twenty-six feet wide. When they have fin- 
ished their task, automatic rakers gather the grain stalks 
and carry them to rows of knives, where they are at once 
headed. Then, in the same operation, the wheat, hard and 
dry, in that climate, is threshed out, cleaned, and sacked, 
leaving behind the huge machine a trail of sacked wheat 
ready for the market. Another traction engine, with a 


train of a dozen cars, follows along, gathering up the sacks 
and taking them to the granary. Seventy or more acres of 
wheat are thus harvested in one day. All the work on a 
farm of a thousand acres may be thus accomplished by six 
men in much less time than by sixty men on a farm of half 
the area without these modern machines." 

A great invention, such as the header of the Far West, or 
the self-binding harvester of the Mississippi Valley, may 
be regarded as a target. Its bull's-eye is reached, zone by 
zone, only by those marksmen who have the skill and pa- 
tience to practise all the way from circumference to center. 
Over and over again inventors strove to design self-raking 
devices before a practical cutter was born. And long be- 
fore a successful reaper had taken its path through a 
field of wheat, there were half a dozen attempts to build 
automatic binders. As long ago as June 28, 1836, H. 
Moore and J. Hascall, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, patented a 
machine for harvesting, threshing, cleaning, and bagging 
grain at once! 

The marvelous economy of modern farming machinery 
explains the drift of rural populations to cities, a movement 
which has given rise to so much comment, wise and un- 
wise. Mr. Quaintance, in the monograph already cited, 

" The transfer of occupations from the country to the 
town is still going on, and will go on until division of labor 
and labor-saving devices shall have served their purpose. 
It is in the nature of things that this should be so, since 
thus work can be done most economically ; and it is equally 
in the nature of things that people should compete for the 
better conditions thus offered. It is in vain to try to 
keep the boy upon the farm where the work is slipping from 
his grasp. He must follow his work. The zeal which some 
townspeople manifest in their efforts to persuade the farm- 
ers' boys to remain upon the farm, betrays a fear that the 
advent of vigorous blood may diminish the profit which 


now arises by reason of the somewhat restricted number of 

McCormick's vast scale of production was not always as 
economical as it might have been. One morning, in the 
seventies, Edward K. Butler, at the head of the sales 
department, said to the chieftain : " If I had control of 
this factory I could double its output with but little ex- 
tra expense." " Go ahead," replied McCormick. Butler 
made good. By the end of a twelvemonth he doubled 
the production of machines without hiring a single ad- 
ditional hand. So much for " scientific management " 
long before its rules were codified by Frederick Winslow 

McCormick late in the sixties removed his home to New 
York, where he resided at 40 Fifth Avenue, near Tenth 
Street. During the great fire in Chicago in 1871, he was 
in that city, transacting business of importance. When, in 
response to a despatch, his wife came to him two days 
afterward, he met her wearing a hat and waistcoat half 
burned. His factory, which had been building ten thou- 
sand harvesters a year, lay in ashes. He asked his wife: 
" Shall I rebuild, or retire from business ? " She, with her 
son in mind, said : " Rebuild." At once McCormick be- 
came energy incarnate. He bought every stick of timber 
he could lay his hands on. He bade all his out-of-town 
agents remit him every dollar in their tills. Before the 
cinders in his cellar were cool, he planned bigger and better 
premises than those destroyed. And he decided to return 
to Chicago as his home. He had seen her census multi- 
plied thirty- fold: she had earned for him the bulk of his 
fortune : in her distress he came loyally to her rescue. His 
example was catching. Many a neighbor took heart as Mc- 
Cormick led the way to refound a new metropolis on the 
shores of Lake Michigan. In 1879, eight years afterward, 


his firm became the McCormick Harvesting Machine Com- 
pany, with Cyrus Hall McCormick as its president and 
guiding spirit. 

McCormick was a great deal more than a strong and 
thriving man of business; he was a good citizen, who all 
his life long took a keen interest in politics. He was a 
Democrat of the school of Jefferson; while several times 
nominated for office, he never won an election. These con- 
tests culminated in 1877 by his seeking admission to the 
National Senate. When news of his defeat came to him, 
he did not waste a moment in complaint or regret, he simply 
said : " Well, that's over. What's next? " 

In the months of turmoil and anxiety which preceded the 
storming of Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, he was deeply 
moved. As a Southerner born and bred, who had lived in 
the North since early manhood, he clearly saw both sides 
of a quarrel which threatened the nation's life. He at- 
tended the Democratic Convention of 1860, in Baltimore, as 
a supporter of Stephen A. Douglas for the Presidency. Mc- 
Cormick strove with all his might for compromise and 
peace. To that end he wrote editorials, delivered speeches, 
and interviewed the leaders in all camps. When he re- 
turned home he continued his labors, equally in vain. He 
bought the Chicago Times to explain to his fellow-citizens 
the circumstances and arguments of the South. During the 
war he poured into the Democratic press a large part of his 
income from the reaper. That machine was every whit as 
effective in the Union cause as if McCormick had bestowed 
upon its army a rifle of lengthened range, or an explosive 
of doubled penetration. Said Edwin M. Stanton, the Secre- 
tary of War : " The reaper is to the North what slavery is 
to the South. By taking the place of regiments of young 
men in the Western harvest fields, it releases them to do 
battle for the Union at the front, and at the same time keeps 
up the supply of bread for the nation and its armies. 


Without McCormick's invention I fear the North could 
not win, and the Union would be dismembered." 

Appomattox, the scene of the surrender of Lee to Grant, 
is in the same State as the McCormick homestead. That 
surrender at once kindled in McCormick's heart an earnest 
desire for amity and good will between the reunited halves 
of the nation. On behalf of church unity he said : " Now 
that the great conflict is past and its issues settled, religion 
and patriotism alike require the exercise of forbearance 
all round, and the pursuit of those things which tend to 
peace." His interest in church affairs had begun many 
years before that morning. In 1834, when twenty-five years 
of age, he joined the Presbyterian Church, and was ever 
one of its stanch supporters, deeming himself of its " old 
school." After his first visit to New York, he summed up 
his impressions thus : " It is a desirable place, with regular 
and good Presbyterian preaching." In 1859 ne gave 
$100,000 to found the Northwestern Theological Seminary 
of Chicago, which replaced a decaying college in New Al- 
bany, Indiana. He afterward added gifts of nearly 
$400,000. His last public speech, read for him by his son 
Cyrus because of his own serious illness, was on the occa- 
sion of adding a building to this Seminary. After his death 
it received his name, and his widow and children added more 
than a million dollars to its resources. McCormick was a 
faithful son of Virginia. At the close of the Civil War her 
institutions of learning were sorely in need of help. He 
gave $30,000 in 1866 to her Union Theological Seminary. 
To the Washington and Lee University of Lexington, near 
his first home, he gave $20,000. Of this University he was 
a trustee during the last fifteen years of his life. After his 
death his heirs established its McCormick professorship of 
natural philosophy by an additional gift of $20,000. 

What of Cyrus Hall McCormick as a man? His biog- 
rapher, Herbert N. Casson, tells us : 


" Cyrus Hall McCormick was a great commercial Thor. 
He was six feet tall, weighed two hundred pounds, and had 
the massive shoulders of a wrestler. His body was well 
proportioned, with small hands and feet. His hair, even in 
old age, was very dark and waving. His bearing was erect, 
his manner often imperious, and his general appearance that 
of a man built on large lines and for large affairs. Men 
of lesser caliber regarded him with fear, not for any definite 
reason, but because, as Seneca has said : ' In him that has 
power, all men consider not what he has done, but what 
he may do.' He was so strong, so dominating, so ready 
to crush through obstacles by sheer bulk of will power, that 
smaller men could never quite subdue a feeling of alarm 
while they were in his presence. He was impatient of small 
talk, small criticisms, and small objections. He had no tact 
at retail, and he saw no differences in little-minded people. 
All his life he had been plagued and obstructed by the Lilli- 
putians of the world, and he had no patience to listen to 
their chattering. He was often as rude as Carlyle to those 
who tied their little threads of pessimism across his path. 
At fashionable gatherings he would now and then be seen 
a dignified figure ; but his mind was almost too ponderous 
an engine to do good service in a light conversation. If a 
subject did not interest him, he had nothing to say. What 
gave him, perhaps, the highest degree of social pleasure 
was the entertaining, at his house, of such men as Horace 
Greeley, William H. Seward, Peter Cooper, Abram S. 
Hewitt, George Peabody, Junius Morgan, Cyrus W. Field, 
or some old friend from Virginia. 

" His long years of pioneering had made him a self- 
sufficient man, and a man who lived from within. He did 
not pick up his opinions on the streets. His mind was not 
open to any chance idea. He had certain clear, definite con- 
victions, logical and consistent. What he knew, he knew. 
There were no hazy imaginings in his brain. The main 
secret of his ability lay in his power to focus all his energies 
upon a few subjects. Once, in 1848, he mentioned the 
French Revolution in one of his letters. ' It is a mighty 
affair/ he wrote, ' and will be likely to stand/ But usually 
he paid little attention to the world-dramas that were being 


enacted. He was too busy too devoted to affairs which, if 
he did not attend to them, would not be attended to at all." * 

In 1858, at the mature age of forty-nine, McCormick 
married Miss Nettie Fowler, of New York. She was a 
wife worthy of him. As he grew older he leaned on her 
judgment more and more. To their union four sons and 
two daughters were born. Cyrus, the eldest, is president 
of the International Harvesting Company, lineally descended 
from his grandfather's little foundry business in Virginia. 
As the hand of time was placed on the stalwart shoulders of 
Cyrus Hall McCormick, his health became impaired, so that 
for weeks together he was unable to cross his threshold. 
At such times his memory would return to his earliest years. 
One morning, looking at a bunch of beautiful flowers, he 
said : " I love the old-fashioned pinks : they used to grow 
in my mother's garden." Often the tears rose to his eyes 
when he saw mountains like those of his native Virginia. 
" Oh, Charlie," he said one day to his valet, " how I wish I 
could get on a horse and ride through those mountains once 
again ! " As the end approached, he found more and more 
solace in music. As a youth he had sung in the New 
Providence Church in Rockbridge County, and ever since 
he had never failed to hear the best musicians of his day. 
He was wont to recall with enthusiasm the performances of 
Jenny Lind and Ole Bull, Scandinavians both, as he was 
wont to remark. The winter of 1883-1884 brought his 
strength to a low ebb. The warmth of spring brought him 
no restoration. On the 131.11 of May, 1884, he died at his 
home in Rush Street, Chicago. His parting words were: 
" Work, work ! " 

*" Cyrus Hall McCormick: his life and work," by Herbert N. 
Casson, copyright by A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1909. 



MY niece, seven years of age, picked up, an hour ago, a 
few acorns under an oak of October. From one of these 
nuts she has pulled away the cup. This cup, dipped in 
water and pressed upon paper, makes a dozen much better 
circles than Jessie could draw with either her pencil or pen. 
And why? Because now she has simply to press one ob- 
ject on another, an acorn cup on a bit of paper, to leave 
an impression. Without knowing it, she is a Printer. 
When her forbears long ago came to this art of printing 
they proved themselves to be human in skill and faculty, 
and gave token of an immeasurable advance beyond their 
lowly kindred of the forest and the glade. At first, in all 
likelihood, they imprinted upon mud and clay the outlines 
of nuts and leaves, feathers and shells, more in simple sport 
than from any other impulse. When the arts of making 
weapons and tools arose, we may be sure that swords and 
knives, arrow-heads and hammers, were bidden to impress 
their contours upon clay, wax, and other yielding surfaces. 
By and by stamps and brands for cattle and horses were 
produced, a new step in the art of printing. More im- 
portant still was the carving of seals. These gradually be- 
came larger and more intricate, so as to set forth a tribal 
record, a deed of sale, a mortgage, or a military proclama- 
tion. The point to be remarked is that a printer, wholly 
devoid of skill, can impress a complicated outline from a 
crystal or a metal plate every whit as well as its carver or 
engraver. In the labor of depiction it is this artist who 
does the chief part of the work; when he has finished, a 
mere copier, with slight exertion, can reproduce his out- 
lines rapidly and easily. Such is the marvel of printing. 



Second only to articulate speech is the art of writing; 
and the slowness of writing, its laboriousness, its frequent 
illegibility, have for centuries prompted men of ingenuity 
to modes of printing instead of writing. Years ago, near 
Rome, a brass plate was found bearing the name : 


It is about two inches long and nearly an inch wide. This 
plate could be used either as a seal to save its owner writing 
his name, or as an engraving from which to print with ink. 
To keep clean its user's fingers, it had a convenient handle. 
Ancient, to be sure, is the lineage of like stamps, to-day cast 
in rubber, and sold for a few cents each throughout 

Beyond this making of name-plates, a noteworthy step 
was taken by Italian copyists as long ago as the twelfth 
century. They engraved elaborate initials upon metal 
stamps, and impressed these upon their pages. They may 
have lacked skill enough to execute these letters with pens, 
or they may have simply wished to save time as they copied 
a Bible or a Psalter. Long before their time, linen and 
silk had been printed with intricate patterns from en- 
graved blocks, and this effective plan they applied to the 
production of books and manuscripts. So gainful was this 
ingenuity that soon not only initials, but every other char- 
acter on a page, was printed from stamps, so that whole 
books were produced from just such simple tools as book- 
binders use to impress titles on their volumes. Of books 
printed with hand stamps, the most famous is the Silvered 
Book of Upsala, in Sweden. It is so called because its 
letters are in silver ; occasionally these letters are found 
turned upside down, an error possible to a hand printer, 

C. L. SHOLES 317 

but not a penman. This work contains the four gospels in 
the Mceso-Gothic language, and is deemed a relic of the 
Gothic Bible of about A. D. 360. 

And now a leap was taken, memorable for all time, and 
quite without forecast as to the wings it would bestow 
upon human faculty. Hand stamps, such as were employed 
in Italy for centuries, were taken to the Netherlands, where 
they shrank into nothing less than the first movable types. 
Donatus, an eminent teacher who flourished about 350, wrote 
for boys a Latin Grammar which bore his name. For cen- 
turies after his death it was reprinted from engraved 
wooden blocks. In Holland, during the fifteenth century, 
new editions appeared in which movable types were, for 
the first time, in service. They were rudely cut or cast, 
so that they stood together somewhat unevenly. But, poor 
as they were, they built the bridge which led from ancient 
copying to modern printing. It would seem that Guten- 
berg only perfected a casting of types, which, in their orig- 
inal manufacture by his predecessors, were faulty both in 
shape and size. When movable types were cast in uniform 
molds, carefully cut, hand stamps were ousted from all but 
a mere corner of their field. In America hand stamps 
bearing numerals remained in use for paging account books, 
for numbering tickets, and the like, as recently as 1866, 
when their slowness of pace suggested the invention of a 
machine to do their work better and cheaper. Its designer, 
successful in this modest venture, was thus led to devising 
the modern typewriter. In this achievement he bade slight 
blows replace the delineations of the pen, slow and faulty 
at best. And from the typewriter has sprung a machine 
more ingenious still, the linotype, in which a lettered key- 
board is the initial feature. 

Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor in question, was 
born in Mooresburg, Montour County, Pennsylvania, on 
February 14, 1819. The blood of John Alden ran in his 


veins, and so did that of New England soldiers who had 
borne a brave part in the revolutionary war. Both by na- 
ture and nurture he was a man of brains, character, and 
courage. At fourteen he was apprenticed to the art and 
craft of printing in the office of the Intelligencer, at Dan- 
ville, six miles from his birthplace. At eighteen he was a 
proficient compositor, with a mastery of his trade much 
more thorough than would have been feasible in a city 
printing office, with its departments narrowly subdivided. 
His familiarity with types, with the mechanism of presses, 
with the details of printing, was indispensable to him, at a 
later day, as an inventor. 

His elder brother, Charles, a printer like himself, some 
years before this had gone to Wisconsin, where he was 
thriving as the owner and editor of the Democrat, in Green 
Bay. Christopher promptly accepted his offer of a post on 
its staff, and went West for good and all. In his new field 
he displayed unusual ability, and a trustiness more uncom- 
mon still. Within a year he was sent to Philadelphia, then 
a formidable journey, there to have printed in book form 
the Journal of the Wisconsin Legislature. He punctually 
brought home the volumes; they were executed in a style 
and with a correctness which at once gave him promotion. 
He was given charge of the Inquirer, at Madison, a news- 
paper owned by his brother. While he held its rudder, he 
supervised the public printing, a less onerous task in 1839 
than now. But his activities, manifold though they were, 
left him wishing to be still more busy. In partnership 
with a friend, Michael Frank, he established the Telegraph, 
at Southport, now Kenosha, a journal which maintains its 
prosperity to this day. Sholes, through his public spirit and 
transparent honesty, soon became a trusted leader in his new 
home. This was recognized by his being appointed post- 
master in 1843, by President Polk. Then and always he 
was a man of clear convictions which he honored by use, 

C. L. SHOLES 319 

He saw an exclusiveness in the churches, a drifting of the 
lettered few from the unlettered plain people, which he de- 
plored ; by way of remedy he took a hand in founding the 
Excelsior Church, with pure democracy as its corner-stone. 
Men and women of all shades of belief, and disbelief, were 
invited to take part in its free discussions of life here and 
hereafter. For two years this little band of come-outers 
held together, making a deep mark on the community ; then 
it fell apart like a sand heap, never again to unite. 

In politics, Sholes was equally the servant of ideas. He 
joined the Barnburners' wing of the Democratic party, and 
fought hard against the growth of slave-holding influences 
in national lawmaking. As a member of the State Senate, 
in 1853, he introduced a bill to allow negroes claimed as 
fugitive slaves the right of habeas corpus and trial by 
jury. This measure was defeated. Next year a mob in 
Milwaukee rescued from jail Joseph Glover, a runaway 
slave, enabling him to escape to Canada. Then came a 
clash between the State and Federal Courts on the question 
as to how far a State could protect its citizens from arrest 
and imprisonment at the hands of national authority. Mean- 
while the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin 
declared the Fugitive Slave Law to be unconstitutional and 
void. On the strength of this decision, the State openly 
nullified pro-slavery laws of Federal enactment, with the 
outspoken approval of its people. When the inevitable con- 
flict between Slavery and Freedom burst into flame, no 
State of the Union sent braver troops to the front, year 
after year, than did Wisconsin. Every fifth male in her 
population became a soldier, and her death list in the field 
was no less than 10,752. In all that preceded an appeal to 
arms, in all that went to bestow victory upon the soldiers 
of the North, Sholes took an unwavering part, exerting an 
influence as wide as the State. While a member of the 
Wisconsin Assembly for Kenosha County, he witnessed a 


tragedy which moved him profoundly. This was the shoot- 
ing of Charles C. D. Arndt, the Representative of Brown 
County, by James H. Vineyard, of Grant County. Their 
quarrel had turned on a nomination for a post as sheriff, 
Vineyard advocating his brother for the place. Sholes pub- 
lished a recital of this murder in the Southport Telegraph, 
where it caught the eye of Charles Dickens, who transcribed 
it in his " American Notes," with an array of other acts of 
violence, all due, he maintained, to the brutalizing in- 
fluences of slavery. 

Errands of business often took Sholes to Milwaukee, 
where he saw with what rapid strides that city was leav- 
ing behind every other in Wisconsin. To Milwaukee, ac- 
cordingly, he removed, to become editor of the Sentinel, 
and later of the News. In Milwaukee, with its compara- 
tively large population, his ability and straightforwardness 
gave him a wider group of friends than ever. In token of 
popular regard he was chosen Commissioner of Public 
Works, and afterward Collector of Customs. Yet it is not 
as a legislator, an editor, or a public official, that he is 
remembered. His fame was destined to take its rise from 
the trade he had acquired as a lad, that of printing. In 
those days it was usual for newspapers, even in cities, to 
conduct a department of job printing, as a rule at con- 
siderable profit. A strike by Sholes' compositors so angered 
him that he seriously took up the notion of typesetting by 
machinery. He built models in which types impressed 
themselves on wax, but this wax bulged in provoking 
ridges that spelt utter failure, so he cast his models aside 
and made peace with his staff. On. quite another path of 
printing he was to win a great triumph, beginning with 
hand stamps, such as those wielded by Italian copyists cen- 
turies before. Sholes, at this time, manufactured a good 
many blankbooks, tickets, coupons, and so on, all numbered 
by metal stamps of the old-fashioned kind. One day it oc- 

C. L. SHOLES 321 

curred to him that he could devise a machine to perform 
this work much more neatly and quickly. He discussed this 
project with a friend, Samuel W. Soule, like himself a 
printer, and a man of decided ingenuity. They began work 
at once in a small room on an upper floor of a mill owned 
by Henry Smith, an old friend. This two-and-a-half story 
building, in simple ashlar, stood on a narrow strip of land 
between the Milwaukee River and the Rock River Canal. 
Here, day by day, Sholes drew his plans with Soule's aid, 
and here their model gradually took form, proving to be a 
thorough success in a final test. On the same floor of the 
mill was the workshop of another tenant, Carlos Glidden, 
the well-to-do son of a retired ironmonger. Glidden was an 
inventor, too, and he was developing a spader which he 
believed would outdo the work of any plow on the market. 
Naturally, there arose many a colloquy betwixt the three 
inventors regarding their plans, with much debate of the 
weak points disclosed as their experiments followed one 

Sholes and Soule duly patented their numbering machine 
on November 13, 1866. Shortly afterward they showed it 
to Glidden, as it turned out capital work at a pace far 
outstripping that of manual labor at its best, and with in- 
fallible correctness. Glidden exclaimed : " Sholes, why 
cannot you build a machine to print letters and words as 
perfectly as these figures are struck off here ? " This 
query had doubtless often been put to other inventors, but 
now it was asked of the man who was to give it a tri- 
umphant response. But not at once, although the idea took 
firm root in Sholes' mind, and kept him on the lookout for 
any information that would serve his turn. He who seeks, 
shall find. In July, 1867, Sholes came upon a description, 
in the Scientific American, of a writing machine for which 
a great deal was claimed. It had been exhibited in London 
by its inventor, John Pratt, of Centre, Alabama. Its de- 


scription was accompanied by an editorial prophecy since 
fulfilled in all but its closing words : " A machine by which 
it is assumed that a man may print his thoughts twice as 
fast as he can write them, and with the advantage of the 
legibility, compactness, and neatness of print, has lately 
been exhibited before the London Society of Arts, by the 
inventor, Mr. Pratt, of Alabama. The subject of typewrit- 
ting is one of the interesting aspects of the near future. 
Its manifest feasibility and advantage indicate that the la- 
borious and unsatisfactory performance of the pen must, 
sooner or later, become obsolete for general purposes. Le- 
gal copying, and the writing and delivering of sermons and 
lectures, not to speak of letters and editorials, will undergo 
a revolution as remarkable as that effected in books by the 
invention of printing, and the weary process of learning pen- 
manship in schools will be reduced to the acquirement of 
the art of writing one's own signature, and playing on the 
literary piano above described, or, rather, on its improved 

Pratt's machine struck Sholes as complicated and liable 
to get out of order. He believed that he could devise mech- 
anism more simple, and at least as efficient. Soule had been 
a helpful partner in the numbering machine, a success from 
the start; would Soule embark with him in this second 
project? Yes. Glidden, who had given Sholes his first 
push from the shore, was received as a third partner: he 
was to contribute the necessary funds. A conference was 
held as to plans, which were sketched in a preliminary way. 
First of all a writing machine must write, but how was its 
paper to be imprinted ? Soule suggested the scheme, never 
excelled, of placing convergent typebars on the rim of a 
circle, so that each might strike the center. Whether this 
design was original with him, or borrowed, is not to be 
ascertained at this distant day. It first appeared in the writ- 
ing machine of Xavier Progin, in 1833; it presented itself 

C. L. SHOLES 323 

again in the embossing machine of Alfred E. Beach, in 1856. 
Other inventors had gone astray in sliding their typebars 
through a horizontal circle, rotated on a vertical axis, as 
Charles Thurber did, in 1845. When an operator wished 
to print " A " he turned the ring until " A " stood over the 
printing point. He then depressed the " A " typerod so as 
to leave " A " printed on the paper beneath. This mechan- 
ism, much too slow for business, survives in toy machines. 

And yet the Thurber design, faulty in the disposal of its 
typerods, displayed a feature of cardinal value; its paper 
was borne on a cylindrical carriage, or platen, and this 
Sholes adopted in his second model. It remains to this 
hour an indispensable part of every standard machine. 
Sholes devised the letters, all capitals, a spacer, and other 
details equally important. But no one of the three partners 
undertook any systematic inquiry as to what their prede- 
cessors had done, so they troubled themselves to devise nov- 
elties which worked badly, when they might have laid hands 
on old contrivances that worked well. In their first model 
Sholes built a keyboard resembling that of a piano, with two 
rows of keys : 


He did not know that Dr. William Francis, of New York, 
in his remarkable machine of 1857, had introduced keys of 
the peg form now universal, and arranged them in four 
rows so as greatly to shorten the journeys taken by an 
operator's fingers. Sholes at length abandoned his piano 
keyboard at the instance of his model-maker, Matthias 
Schwalbach, a builder of tower-clocks in Milwaukee. As 
we have just seen, Sholes in his first keyboard gave his 
characters a strictly alphabetical and numerical order. He 
soon changed this for the present order of disposal which, 


like the compartments of a printer's case, places the char- 
acters oftenest used nearest to the working center. As 
patented on July 14, 1868, the claims of Sholes, Glidden, and 
Soule were: (i) A circular annular disc, with radial 
grooves and slots to receive and guide the typebars so that 
they struck the center. (2) Radial typebars to correspond 
with this disc. (3) A ratchet to move the paper-carriage 
by the breadth of a tooth when a key was struck. (4) A 
hinged clamp to hold the paper firmly on its carriage. 

Frederick Heath, of Milwaukee, as a lad was employed 
as a. messenger by Mr. Sholes as he began to devise his type- 
writer. On the wall of Mr. Heath's office he has framed a 
rough, uncouth model of the first machine invented by Mr. 
Sholes. " His original idea," says Mr. Heath, " was to 
have his keyboard fashioned after that of a piano, and 
there you have it. The first row is of ivory, duly lettered; 
the second row is of ebony; and then, as you see, a third 
row, made up of letters and characters that are little used, 
is in the form of pegs. The framework is of wood, with the 
leverage below, and the basket form of typebars above 
closely resembles those of some machines in use to-day. 
The original model was very clumsy and weighty. The 
writing was on a tape of tissue paper, and the platen was 
fastened to the body of the boxlike affair. The writing 
could not be seen till it was completed, and when the docu- 
ment was once removed from the machine there was no way 
by which it could be replaced with any degree of certainty 
that the lines would correspond with those previously 

" Mr. Sholes was collector of customs of the port of Mil- 
waukee during most of the time that he was engaged in 
devising his typewriter, and later he was Comptroller of the 
city of Milwaukee. While acting in this latter capacity, it 
fell to his lot to enter into a contract, on behalf of the 
city, for the paving of certain streets. He had the contract 


Key-levers, L, vibrating on the fulcrum, M, with the inner 
fingers, u, reaching under the typebars, so that the keys act directly 
on the types. 

The spacer or ratchet, I, combined with the bifurcated lever, H, 
connected with the bar, T, pivoted at s and resting across the arms 
of the keys, L, so that striking the key-faces will work the teeth of 
lever-forks up and down and into the notches of the spaces, so as 
duly to move the paper-carriage. 

The pins, e, fastened to the table A', combined with the pawl, h, 
and the spring, /', to give the paper-carriage a certain and regular 
cross-line movement at a right angle to the space movement from 
line to line. 

The spring-clasps, b, attached to the bars, C and C', on a line 
through the middle of the platen, G, combined with the springs, a, 
attached to the bar, E, hold the paper on its carriage smoothly and 

The spools, m, combined with the gudgeon, s', the shaft, /, the 
pulleys, k and R, the band, i/', the cord, v, the weight, W, the 
ratchet-wheel, V, the pawl, /, and the bar, P, pivoted to the back of 
the case. A 2 , feed a fresh part of inking ribbon to each type suc- 


written on one of his machines, and this is claimed to have 
been the first official document ever produced on a type- 
writer. In that machine, only capitals appeared; lower- 
case letters came later as an addition. For his first model 
Mr. Sholes used an old kitchen table which he found in a 
garret." * 

It has often been asked, why did inventors so ingenious 
as Foucault in 1849, an d Beach in 1856, limit their ma- 
chines to mere embossing, so that their services were re- 
stricted to the blind? Simply because they were unable 
to contrive a simple and trustworthy inker. This was con- 
tributed by Dr. Francis in 1857, as he produced the inked 
ribbon now in general use. Such a ribbon is virtually dry 
under a light touch; under the sharp stroke of a typebar 
it readily parts with its color. Sholes employed this ribbon 
in his first machine, and was ready to use carbon paper as 
an alternative. To-day carbon paper is employed solely for 
duplication; ribbons are the chief source of ink. One or 
two popular typewriters use inkpads, and find them satis- 

In that grimy old mill on the Rock River Canal there were 
interludes to lighten and brighten the toil of experiment. 
All three partners were chess players of more than com- 
mon skill, and they often turned from ratchets and pinions 
to moves with knights and pawns. Ever and anon a friend 
would drop in, and the talk would drift from writing by 
machinery to Reconstruction in South Carolina, or to the 
quiet absorption by farms and mills of the brigades mus- 
tered out after Appomattox. Then, with zest renewed, the 
model was taken up once more, to be carried another stage 
toward completion. One morning it printed in capitals line 
after line both legibly and rapidly. Sholes, Soule, and Glid- 
den were frankly delighted. They determined to let their 
friends see at once what they had achieved, so they wrote 
*" Typewriter Topics," New York, April, 1909. 



hundreds of letters on their typewriter to correspondents far 
and near. Just one of these letters hit the bull's eye. It 
went to James Densmore, of Meadville, Pennsylvania, who 


Shown at the Great Exhibition, London, 1851. All the letters 
of the alphabet, in high relief, are fixed on the upper end of a 
metallic rod, made to slide longitudinally in a channel of its own. 
They are disposed like the ribs of a fan, each rod showing its letter 
both at the upper and lower ends. All the letters converge to a 
center. When a letter is embossed, the paper moves sidewise by 
the breadth of a letter. At the end of a line, the paper moves per- 
pendicularly by the breadth of a line. 

took fire at this demonstration that a writing machine was 
about to supplant the pen. He was sagacious enough to 
foresee a wide and profitable acceptance for the type- 


writer, so he asked the price of a share in its patent. The 
partners were greatly cheered by this proof that their in- 
vention already had a cash value. They held a hurried con- 
ference, and agreed to offer Densmore one-fourth of their 
patent on his paying all expenses to date. He said " Yes," 
without a day's delay, and this before he knew what the ex- 
penses were. It was the following March when he first 
saw the machine, and he examined it with no indulgent eye. 
Its creators had meanwhile embodied vital improvements 
on their original design, and they were rather proud of the 
machine as it stood. Densmore bluntly declared that it 
was good for nothing except to show that its underlying 
principles were sound. He urged the trio to proceed with 
further improvements, and promptly, for which he would 
advance all needed funds. At this stage of affairs, Soule 
and Glidden retired from the scene, leaving Sholes and 
Densmore in sole possession of the patent, and whatever 
harvest it might yield in time coming. 

They manfully attacked the defects of their model, and 
patiently built other models, about thirty in all, each with 
some change, usually intended to reduce friction and 
heighten speed. Both Sholes and Densmore expected that 
stenographers would be among the first and best buyers, 
so they sent experimental machines to a leading reporter in 
Washington, James Ogilvie Clephane, who afterward 
greatly helped Ottmar Mergenthaler, inventor of the lino- 
type. Clephane was so unsparing in his tests that not sel- 
dom he reduced a machine to ruin. His judgments, too, 
were so caustic that Sholes, forbearing though he was, lost 
his temper at last. Said he to Densmore : " I am through 
with Clephane ! " Densmore's comment was : " This candid 
fault-finding is just what we need. We had better have 
it now than after we begin manufacturing. Where Cle- 
phane points out a weak lever or rod let us make it strong. 
Where a spacer or an inker works stiffly, let us make it 


[Museum, Buffalo Historical Society.] 






































































































































































-J X 
CO h- 
< O 


CC > 
O < -J 






work smoothly. Then, depend upon Clephane for all the 
praise we deserve." 

This counsel was heeded, and Sholes further improved 
his models in the light of objections from Washington. 
When the total output of machines had risen to fifty or so, 
produced at an average cost of $250, Sholes and Densmore 
concluded that- they had learned from Clephane as much as 
he could teach them, for the present at least. They were 
convinced that the time had come when their typewriter 
could challenge examination by an expert mechanic of the 
first rank, who would look at their machine with a fresh eye, 
and advise them as to its manufacture for the markets of 
the world. Their choice fell upon George W. N. Yost, 
whom they at once invited to Milwaukee. 

He subjected their latest model to a thorough inspection 
and to repeated tests. He suggested several changes in 
matters of detail; and he declared that what the machine 
now required was precision in manufacture. He recom- 
mended Sholes and Densmore to take their typewriter to 
Eliphalet Remington & Sons, at Ilion, New York, where it 
could be produced and constantly improved. The Rem- 
ingtons were then manufacturing firearms, sewing machines, 
and farm tools, all of the highest merit. Their plant in- 
cluded lathes, drop forges, and other machinery of the 
latest and best patterns. Every part of each of their pistols 
or rifles was accurately copied from a model to the one- 
thousandth part of an inch. This system, applied to type- 
writers, would minimize friction to the utmost, while ren- 
dering it easy to renew parts broken, or worn out of true. 
More important than its admirable plant was the staff in 
charge of its experimental work. This staff was the proto- 
type of many such staffs now busy throughout America. 
At such electrical centers as Schenectady and Niagara Falls, 
at the headquarters of oil, steel, paper, and sugar manu- 

C. L. SHOLES 331 

facture, groups of experts to-day cooperate in attacking new 
and difficult problems, developing a team-play which earns 
golden rewards. 

To such a group of organized constructors Sholes and 
Densmore displayed their typewriter, early in 1873. It 
was agreed that the machine should remain at Ilion to be 
improved, tested, and, in all likelihood, manufactured on 
a large scale for home and foreign markets. Thus, at last, 
the typewriter ceased to be a mere experimental model 
among other such models, and took its place as a practical 
and vendible article, like a sewing machine or a harvester. 
It had been put together by amateur mechanics ; it had 
been developed under the fire of an unrelenting critic; it 
had been examined and amended by a distinguished in- 
ventor; it was now to undergo standardization in a great 
modern factory, to be produced with the utmost strength of 
material, the least possible liability to derangement, and the 
highest feasible speed. 

The Remingtons took hold of the typewriter with both 
hands. They saw its possibilities, and brought these into 
actualities, step by step. They felt sure that the patent was 
well worth buying, so they bought it, Sholes and Densmore 
consenting that the machine be called the " Remington." 
Sholes for his interest accepted a lump sum, which tradi- 
tion places at $12,000.00. Densmore wisely preferred a 
royalty, which yielded him a million and a half. Sholes 
continued to reside in Milwaukee, where, with the assistance 
of his sons, Louis and Zalmon, he built new models of 
typewriters, constantly simplified in design and lightened in 
touch. The latest and best of these machines, " The Sholes 
Visible," displays not only the line being written, but all 
that is written. Its typebars are each in a single un jointed 
piece, L-shaped, and operate in a guide from the instant of 
pressing a key until its type impresses the paper. In few- 
ness of parts, perfection of alignment, and durability, this 


machine is distinctly superior to any predecessor from its 
inventor's hands. 

Never stalwart in frame, Sholes had hardly passed his 
prime when his weak lungs became infected by tuberculosis. 
He fought this fell disease most bravely for nine years. 
Then, on February 19, 1890, he succumbed, leaving six sons 
and four daughters to mourn him. 

Good reasons, we have seen, attracted Sholes and Dens- 
more to the Remingtons. The same good reasons brought 
to that firm James H. Hammond, with a model of his 
typewriter, embodying not typebars, but a typewheel, against 
which his paper was rapped to be printed. While the 
Sholes and Densmore machine was preferred by the Ilion 
manufacturers, the Hammond typewriter has found favor 
with a large public, chiefly through the perfection of its 
alignment. Its types are arranged on a rotating cylinder. 
Sister machines employ only a segment of a cylinder, and 
find that enough. These three plans, convergent type- 
bars, a typewheel, and type on the segment of a wheel 
are the only successful modes of construction thus far 

Upon these three well seasoned plans, hundreds of dif- 
ferent typewriters have been invented : most of them now 
obsolete and forgotten. Less than twenty machines sup- 
ply ninety-nine per cent, of the market. Each of these sur- 
vivors is suitable for some particular field of work. Most 
of them are adapted to ordinary duty in offices, where hun- 
dreds of letters, bills, or reports must be despatched every 
day, asking only a fair quality of output. Other machines 
execute the precise and neat work which commends itself 
to teachers, scholars, and editors, to ladies who write their 
own letters. One or two machines appeal to travelers who 
insist upon a light and simple mechanism, unaffected by the 
jars and hazards of journeys by land and sea. But the de- 
signers of such machines work within limitations, and are 

C. L. SHOLES 333 

thoroughly aware that their models cannot be placed in the 
front rank. 

The typewriter, as it left Sholes' hands, simply provided 

1 I ) means for hitting the paper with types at due intervals ; 

(2) moving the paper a suitable space after a stroke; (3) 
moving the paper lengthwise at the end of a line; (4) strik- 
ing a bell near the end of a line. To these facilities have 
since been added: (5) means of retracing a line in correct- 
ing an error; (6) varying the distances apart at which lines 
may be written; (7) using a shift-key so that at will one of 
two characters may be written by each key. An upper case 
" B " and a lower case " b " are, let us say, engraved on 
a block attached to the "b" key. When that key is 
struck " b " will print, as " B " is too far off to impress 
itself. Lowering the shift-key moves the carriage into such 
a position that " B " imprints itself when the key is struck. 

To know the typewriter at its best we must use a standard 
machine built for office work. We will find it admirable in 
its accuracy and beauty of characters, its range and speed. 
It writes in every language of the world, including the 
Jewish, which proceeds from right to left, a direction op- 
posite to that of ordinary script. Typewriters have been 
adapted to producing musical scores. In machines whose 
product is to be read by blind folk, Braille and other codes 
replace the usual characters. In an ingenious machine a 
stenographer is provided with shorthand symbols instead 
of ordinary letters. Last of all, electricity has been invoked 
to lessen the toil of manipulation which, continued hour 
after hour, becomes fatiguing. 

No penman, however skilful, can match the legibility and 
compactness of a typewriter. When he writes a letter with 
a pen, he can take a single copy, and no more, on a wet 
sheet of tissue paper in a letter press. A typewriter with a 
brass platen affords as many as sixty copies from carbon 
paper. With similar carbon sheets a bookkeeper can at 


one operation write an entry in a sales-book, and duplicate 
its lines for a bill. A tabulator, controlled by a touch, 
keeps all the figures of an account in their proper columns. 
Yet more : an attachment, smaller than a lady's watch, adds 
and subtracts these figures with precision, so that they may 
be printed as totals or remainders. This recalls that Sholes 
first of all invented a numbering machine, which feat, as 
we have seen, led him to devising his typewriter. His suc- 
cessors in one instrument unite computation with writing. 

Long ago typewriters entered into rivalry with printers 
as well as with penmen. A circular, or a program, was 
transferred from a typewritten sheet to a gelatine mold 
from which forty to fifty copies could be neatly struck off. 
To-day a better method yields as many as two thousand 
copies, and with more despatch: the types of the writing 
machine are used to cut a stencil in a film of stiff wax from 
which, on a small rotary press, copies are rapidly printed in 
ink. These and many another golden harvest are to-day 
reaped from machines derived from Sholes' great invention. 
In all machines, heavy or light, simple or intricate, elegant 
or solid, certain principles of design are indispensable for 
success. Let a few of these principles be reviewed : 

The carriage must be strong and move firmly in its slide, 
and the typebars should have a leverage as simple and rigid 
as possible. These features insure good alignment, always 
in evidence. Nobody can tell from a glance at a page 
at what pace it was typewritten ; but a glance at once de- 
tects any irregularity of line. When a machine is solidly 
built, both quick operation and heavy manifolding are borne 
for years with little wear and tear. Operators usually de- 
mand speed, and speed requires a rapid escapement. How- 
ever rapid an escapement may be, it is never instantaneous, 
so that, with a swift pace, good alignment is difficult. This 
shows how two wants may oppose each other, so that no 
machine whatever can satisfy in the highest degree every 

C. L. SHOLES 335 

want. Perfect alignment must be paid for in a slight re- 
duction of speed. At very quick paces there is an unavoid- 
able loss of neatness, and an increase in errors. 

Next to speed, an operator desires ease of working. He 
does not always get it. Some machines are more than twice 
as resistant as others. In stiff machines, with a long play or 
dip of the keys, fatigue sets in early in the day, to be 
registered in lapses due to no other cause. Ball-bearing 
carriages were introduced about 1896, easing the labor of 
operation in a remarkable degree. Where these bearings 
are placed in V-shaped runways, there is at times a liabil- 
ity to uneven wear, causing sluggish movement of a car- 
nage. Most machines of the best grade are now fitted with 
roller-bearings, which wear uniformly and give no trouble. 

Operators like a quick and easy machine: their next 
preference is for a machine with its writing in plain sight. 
Blind machines came first, and many typists became so ac- 
customed to them that they cling to them still. These 
operators, through sheer force of habit, when they work a 
visible machine, are apt to lose somewhat of their self- 
confidence, and refer too often to their notes. With blind 
machines they keep their eyes on these notes, except at odd 
moments when they glance at their keys. But to-day the 
majority of beginners adopt visible machines, and with ad- 
vantage. They are thus enabled to note an error, and cor- 
rect it, with the minimum of trouble and delay. Visible 
machines are steadily gaining ground, and will in a few 
years, in all probability, hold the field. 

Shift-key machines ask shorter trips from an operator's 
fingers than machines without a shift-key. Here another 
case of force of habit comes to view. A typist brought up 
on a " Yost," or a " Smith-Premier " machine, with its 
double keyboard, may be induced to adopt a shift-key ma- 
chine. But in a few weeks or months the operator is apt to 
return to the old machine. Yet these instances grow fewer 


year by year. For most purposes shift-key machines econ- 
omize time and energy, and with this advantage they are 
driving their competitors from the market. In some minor 
tasks, cataloguing and directory work, for example, where 
there are frequent changes from small letters to capitals, 
and vice versa, an old-fashioned machine may turn out 
more work in an hour than any other. 

A machine as radically novel as the typewriter, discovers, 
or creates, as you please, a round of aptitudes unimagined 
before its advent. When the Sholes machines first appeared 
their operators were perforce clumsy and slow. Practice 
soon heightened their speed, and operators to whom speed 
was impossible simply dropped out of the running. From 
that time to the present hour, the pace of working has 
gradually increased. This is due, in part, to better ma- 
chines, of easier touch, of keyboards not only more com- 
pact, but so arranged that an operator's fingers take the 
shortest paths possible. To-day, also, more fingers of each 
hand are brought into play, and are better taught their busi- 
ness, than when typing was a novelty. 

Thirty years ago beginners seldom used more than one 
or two fingers of the right hand, employing the left hand 
scarcely at all. To-day touch-systems teach the use of 
all the fingers of both hands, instructing the thumbs to move 
the space-bars and shift-keys. These systems, when mas- 
tered, greatly promote speed. An expert operator of the 
first rank keeps his eyes fixed on his " copy," never glanc- 
ing at his keys, which, indeed, may be blank. In ac- 
quiring this remarkable facility the first step is to cover 
two or three characters with paper, so that the learner must 
feel for them. When the places of these characters have 
become familiar, two or three more characters are hidden 
from view, and so on, until the whole keyboard is blank. 
At exhibitions, a pace may rise to 200 words a minute, so as 
to advertise the " Speedwell," let us say, as the conqueror. 

C. L. SHOLES 337 

But words thus shot on paper may have been committed 
to memory, or may be so familiar as to be written with 
much greater ease than the words of an ordinary dictation 
or copy. What means most to an employer, day by day, 
is the net amount of really good work that a typist turns 
out. A lightning pace is bought too dear at the cost of 
many errors. Employers agree that the typists who serve 
best are men and women of education and culture, who are 
never in doubt about spelling or syntax, or the best form 
to give a sentence. A typist of this class may strike the 
keys with but one or two fingers, and yet leave far behind 
an operator who is master of the touch system, but who 
lacks training and the literary sense. 

" It is well," says Arthur G. Seal, of New York, " for 
every beginner to learn under a competent teacher, so as to 
form only good habits, and understand, from the start, all 
that may be done with a machine. Pupils at first are apt to 
strike keys too hard. A light, firm touch is best Opera- 
tors who keep time with their keys find their toil distinctly 
lightened, just as in telegraphy." 


DR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES used to say that the Dis- 
covery of America, in 1492, astonished him less than the 
Forgetting of America, thousands of years before. Colum- 
bus arose ages after the day when explorers from Asia were 
able to find their way to America ; century by century their 
descendants fell away in skill and nerve as navigators, until 
America faded out from the legends of every other con- 
tinent of the seas. Almost within our own time there have 
been parallel cases where not a great discovery, but a 
great invention, has had its birth and a forgetting. Of this 
we have a striking example in the mechanism for stitching. 
In 1790, Thomas Saint patented in England a chain-stitch 
sewing machine of capital design. With the insight of 
genius he created features which appear in good machines 
to-day, an overhanging arm of goodly girth, and a hori- 
zontal cloth-plate. His intermittent feed was effective; 
his continuous thread had tighteners above and below its 
needle. And yet this machine was virtually forgotten for 
sixty years. One inventor after another followed Saint in 
planning sewing machines, only to miss points of excellence 
which Saint had included in his model. Why was this 
stitcher, so ingenious and efficient, allowed to fall into this 
neglect ? Simply because its inventor offered people a good 
thing before they were ready for it. 

Let us be just to the British folk of the time of Thomas 
Saint. They lived in what was still the day of tools, 
while we live in the era of machines. To-day we are 
surrounded and served by uncounted contrivances, all in- 
vented within the past century or so, and pressed upon 
public acceptance by systems of advertisement and can- 


[From the painting- by Joseph Eliot, owned by the late Mrs. Jane R. Cald. 
well, New York, daughter of Klias Howe.] 




It possessed (i) a horizontal cloth-plate; (2) an overhanging 
arm, on the end of which was (3) a vertically reciprocating straight 
needle, and on the top of which was (4) a thread spool, giving out 
its thread continuously; (5) an intermittent automatic feed between 
stitches; made the chain-stitch; and had thread tighteners above 
and below. 

The machine consisted of a bed-plate, a, with a post, b, having a 
projecting arm on which was the thread spool, c; a shaft, rotated by 
a hand-crank and carrying cams by which all the motions of the 
machine were obtained; the same overhanging arm carried a spin- 
dle, d t for tightening the stitch, and a needle and awl-carrier, e, into 
which a needle,/, and awl, g, were secured by set-screws, and moved 
by cams, h /, on the shaft, k. The needle was notched at its lower 
end to push the thread through the hole made by the awl, and thus 
form a loop. The work was supported on a box, /, sliding between 
guides m, w.and advanced by a screw, , turned by a toothed wheel, 
o, which was engaged by a projection from an arm depending 
from the shaft, k, at each revolution of the latter. A looper was 
operated by the bent point of the spindle, d, in a manner still em- 
ployed in some of the chain-stitch machines. The screw, r, served 
to adjust the box, /, on the guide-plate, and provision was made for 
varying stitches for different kinds of work. 

[From Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary. Copyright by Hurd & 
Houghton, Boston, 1876.] 


vassing which have become arts taught in colleges. To-day 
every American family above the line of dire poverty has 
machines for sewing and washing, in many cases impelled 
by the electricity aglow in millions of our lamps. Electric 
motors and heaters, fans and vacuum sweepers, are com- 
mon in households, offices, and factories. As in the city, so 
in the country, with its multiplied seeders and cultivators, 
mowers, harvesters, and corn shellers. Both in town and 
country we constantly employ elevators and motor-cars, 
trolleys, telegraph, and telephones, so that, from dawn to 
bedtime, we are as familiar with elaborate machinery as the 
neighbors of Thomas Saint were with pins and needles, 
hammers, gimlets, and chisels. Four generations ago there 
were probably fewer than a thousand power-looms in all 
England. Little marvel that Saint's stitcher was looked at 
askance in a world that felt no need of it, whose peace 
and quiet it threatened to disturb. Saint's drawing, evi- 
dently taken from a model, gathered dust in the British 
Patent Office for two generations, during which it might 
have rendered inestimable service to designers. But these 
designers neglected the rule which bids an inventor begin 
his work by a thorough survey of what other inventors have 
already done. 

Next in rank to Thomas Saint in time and in talents is 
Barthelemi Thimonnier, who, in 1830, patented his sewing 
machine in France. Eleven years later he had eighty of 
them at work on army uniforms. He used a crochet needle, 
whose barbed point formed two hundred chain-stitches a 
minute; his feed included a presser-foot, reinvented long 
afterward. The tailors and seamstresses who saw this 
quick machine at work were afraid it would throw them into 
idleness; so they mobbed Thimonnier's workroom, and 
smashed his machines in pieces. Seven years afterward he 
resumed their manufacture, but without financial success: 
he died in 1857. 


To-day a toy which executes chain-stitches like those of 
Thimonnier may be bought for a dollar. Its mechanism, 
which may be understood at a glance, involves much the 
same principles as sister machines more elaborate and 
costly. Its one thread is carried in an eye-pointed needle 
which descends below the cloth. As this needle rises it 
throws out a loop of thread, which is seized and opened 
by a rotary hook. Through this loop the needle passes in 
its next descent, when the operation is repeated until 
stitch after stitch forms a neat chain. Here, reduced to 
their utmost simplicity, are the essentials of a sewing mech- 
anism. First, a needle to take a thread through cloth, with 
a hook to form a stitch. Next, a spring to keep the thread 
at proper tension ; with a holding surface to keep the cloth 
motionless at the moment of stitching, and then move it for- 
ward by a stitch-length. 

A chain-stitch has two drawbacks: it unravels when a 
break in the thread is followed by a slight pull ; and much 
more thread is required than in lock-stitching, an item of 
importance, especially when the thread is costly silk. The 
chain-stitch machines of Saint, of Thimonnier, and their 
successors, have been far outdone by the lock-stitch ma- 
chines of a later day. Their two threads interlace in the 
middle of the sewn fabric, so as to form a neat line of 
stitches on each side. For some purposes, as in sewing 
garments which are to be taken apart after a season's wear, 
a chain-stitch machine is often preferred. Chain-stitches, 
too, are employed to ornament dresses, gloves, cushions, and 
so on. Particularly pretty are the double chain-stitches 
formed by the Grover and Baker machine, which uses two 
threads. The first machine of this kind was invented by 
John Fisher, of Nottingham, England, when he was only 
nineteen years of age. He patented it on December 7, 
1844. Gloves, with linings, were stitched by this machine. 
It was only the ornamental effect that Fisher and his 


customers looked at. They missed the vastly more im- 
portant fact that the machine had sewn together the leather 
of a glove and its lining. One would suppose that an in- 
ventor of Fisher's talent could easily have devised and added 
suitable feed and tension mechanisms, such as were de- 
signed by many other ingenious men both in America and 

The first lock-stitch machine was devised and built by 
Walter Hunt in New York, between 1832 and 1834. At 
the end of a vibrating arm it held a curved needle with an 
eye at its point, through which passed the upper thread. 
Its lower thread was borne in a shuttle thrown within a 
loop formed by the needle and beneath it. Whether this 
machine worked well or ill is not recorded. It does not 
seem to have satisfied its inventor, as he did not apply for a 
patent. He took many steps toward his goal, and then 
omitted the one final step which would have brought him 
to the winning post. Hunt was a man of restless versatil- 
ity, and soon busied himself with inventions vastly less im- 
portant than the sewing machine, one of these was a mill 
which turned out paper collars, bearing stitches in a capital 
imitation. After the amazing victory of the Howe ma- 
chine, Hunt sought a patent. It was refused on the score 
of abandonment twenty years before. 

Now we come to Elias Howe, and to the question, Why 
did he succeed where others failed, and by what steps 
did he arrive at his great triumph? Elias Howe was born 
in Spencer, Massachusetts, about twenty miles from 
Worcester, on July 9, 1819, in a family of sturdy New Eng- 
land stock, endowed with an extra share of Yankee ingenu- 
ity and gumption. An uncle, William Howe, devised a 
truss for roofs and bridges which enjoys vogue to this day. 
Another uncle, Tyler Howe, was an inventor on a less am- 
bitious plane: he designed a spring bed and other simple 
aids to household comfort. These two worthies, and their 


famous nephew, Elias Howe, are commemorated in their 
native village by a handsome monument. Elias Howe, 
senior, who gave his son the same name as his own, had 
eight children ; so, with all his hard work, he remained poor. 
He was first of all a farmer, but, with the reluctant soil 
of Worcester County, his harvests were scant, and he eked 
out a livelihood by grinding meal for his neighbors, by 
sawing and planing lumber, by splitting shingles. 

Early in the last century such a family as the Howes car- 
ried on some simple handicraft, in which their children 
could take part. At six years of age, Elias worked with 
his brothers and sisters at stitching wire teeth into cards for 
cotton mills. Later on he attended the village school in 
winter, and in summer took a hand in farm work and his 
father's mills. Day by day this observing boy saw what 
machinery did to lighten toil and multiply its fruit. And, 
besides this, he received a cultivation of hand and eye, of 
good sense and resourcefulness, which made his training, 
unsystematic though it was, a capital preparation for his 
labors as an inventor. One day he trued a grindstone, 
glazed a window, and soldered a tea-kettle, next morning he 
nailed shingles on a leaky roof ; the week afterward saw 
him building a corn crib, rearing a well sweep, and bringing 
from the wood lot a new prop for his mother's clothes- 
line. And meantime he was acquiring, too, more than mere 
handiness; he received the sterling discipline of sticking 
to a task, whether he liked it or not, until that task was 
finished. From boyhood, as long as he lived, Elias Howe 
had the unrelaxing grip of a bulldog ; when once his mind 
was made up, he was deaf to dissuasion and proof against 
discouragement. He had other traits which smoothed his 
path for purposes firmly maintained. As a boy he was 
lively and play-loving, with chums a-plenty. As a man he 
was kind and sociable, so that, in his darkest days, he never 
lacked a friend to proffer .him aid and comfort. 


In his twelfth year he went to live with a farmer in the 
neighborhood, intending to remain with him until he had 
thoroughly mastered the routine of planting, tilling, and 
reaping. But young Howe suffered from a lameness which, 
though slight, was disabling; this made farm drudgery a 
distress to him, so that, within a year, he returned home to 
resume work in his father's mills. This continued till he 
was sixteen. At that critical age, with new ambition astir, 
a friend told him how bright and busy a place Lowell was, 
where Elias could earn much more than at Spencer, and 
have a much better time. So to Lowell he went, taking a 
learner's place in a large factory of cotton machinery. 
Here he remained for two years, when the panic of 1837 
closed every mill in town and sent him adrift. He went to 
Cambridge, and there found work in a machine shop, tak- 
ing charge of a hemp-carder invented by Professor Tread- 
well, of Harvard College. As a shopmate and roommate, 
Howe had his cousin, Nathaniel P. Banks, who became a 
Major-General of the United States Army, and Speaker 
of the House of Representatives. After a few months of 
hemp-carding, a task not to his mind, Howe heard of 
pleasant work in Boston at better wages. Thither he pro- 
ceeded, engaging himself to Ari Davis, on Cornhill, a manu- 
facturer and repairer of chronometers, surveying instru- 
ments, and the like. Davis had invented a dovetailing ma- 
chine which had brought him some profit, and his head was 
brimful of plans for other machines, from which he ex- 
pected profits much larger. He was eccentric in manner, 
and peculiar in dress, so that he did not seem to be as 
shrewd as he really was. Often his judgment was in 
request by inventors who brought him their experi- 
mental models, or who wished his opinion on their 
schemes. What place beneath the sky could have been bet- 
ter for our young mechanic from Spencer than this shop of 
Ari Davis? 


One morning Davis had a caller who was trying to in- 
vent a knitting machine. When his model had been duly 
inspected, Davis said : " Why do you bother with a knit- 
ting machine ; why don't you make a sewing machine ? " 
" I wish I could," replied his visitor, " but it can't be done." 
" Oh, yes, it can," said Davis ; " I can make a sewing 
machine myself." " Well," responded his caller, " you 
do it, and you will have an independent fortune." Howe 
overheard this as he sat nearby, and from that mo- 
ment the current of his life was changed. As he brooded 
over what Davis had carelessly said, he thought : " I 
may be the man to invent that sewing machine and win 
a fortune." 

He built upon solid ground as he thus quietly resolved 
upon his great task. He had shown ingenuity in adapting 
and improving instruments for Davis's customers. From 
Davis himself, sanguine as to the future, disrespectful as 
to the past, he had caught the conviction that most tools 
and machines are faulty and slow, and should be improved 
or supplanted, the sooner the better. In skill and quickness 
Howe was surpassed by more than one of his shopmates, 
and he always said that he never studied the abstract prin- 
ciples which underlie mechanical construction. But if he 
was ignorant of mechanical philosophy, he had mechanical 
practice at his fingers' ends, at work every day, as he 
was, on time-pieces, theodolites, and binnacles. From the 
time he had played as a boy in his father's mills he had 
observed the uses of pawls and ratchets, levers and cams, 
springs and weights, as they actuated clockwork and other 
simple machinery. In the workshops of Lowell and Cam- 
bridge he had for years together seen lathes, spinning- 
frames, and power-looms at work and under repair, so that 
his memory was a storehouse from which to draw the ele- 
ments of a sewing machine. And these elements he must 


now carefully choose, and skilfully combine as a compact 
and effective unit.* 

In physique Howe was not robust : his strength was of the 
brain rather than of the body. Yet this man with a soft 
eye, and a placid Quakerly face, had a sagacity that served 
him much better than mere shrewdness would have done. 
His comrades were wont to say that he disliked unneces- 
sary toil, or, indeed, toil of any kind. Supposing this to 
be true, the fact was all in his favor, for what is Invention 
but the wise abridging or abolishing of toil ? And we must 
remember that Davis paid him only nine dollars a week, and 
this had to support himself, his wife, and three children. 
It was uncushioned poverty that pressed him to turn to all 
possible account such ingenuity as in him lay. His labor at 
that time, says James Parton, was so tiring that when he 
reached home he was sometimes too exhausted to eat, and 
went to bed longing to stay there for ever and ever. 

After brooding four years on the talk he had overheard 
at Davis's shop, Howe, in 1843, began to build his sewing 
machine. At first he took a wrong track; as he watched 
his wife plying her needle on a seam, he imitated her mo- 
tions, one after another. Long before this, in 1829, Heil- 
mann had pierced an eye in the middle of a needle, so that 
it could be worked to and fro without reversal, in his em- 
broidering machine. Howe made such a needle which, duly 
threaded, he passed by pincers through two thicknesses of 
cloth. The stitches were so irregular that his attempt was 
an utter failure. One day, in 1844, the question flashed 
upon him : " Is it necessary that a machine should sew with 

*The tailor-bird of India uses its bill in sewing leaf to leaf for a 
nest. Shreds of wool or silk, vegetable fibers or even the spinnings 
of spiders serve as thread. Dr. Jerdan once saw a tailor-bird watch 
a garment-sewer until for a moment he rose from his bench. At 
once it seized a few bits of cotton thread from the floor, and flew off 
with them in triumph. Mr. Layard describes a nest sewn from a 
dozen oleander leaves with cocoa-nut fiber. 


the same motions as a human hand ? No ; there may be an- 
other kind of stitch than that wrought by a seamstress, 
quite as serviceable, though sewn by sinews of brass and 
steel." This thought was the turning-point which divided 
failure from success. It is likely that he had seen chain- 
stitch machines, for they were not uncommon, but he wished 
to build something better. There is no reason to believe 
that Hunt's contrivances ever came under his notice. On 
lines wholly original, Howe imagined a lock-stitch machine, 
and embarked on the labor of giving it form and substance. 
Long before he was born, thatchers and lacemakers had 
pierced their needles with eyes near their points, so as to 
shorten their paths, and save thread from undue friction. 
Such needles had been adopted by Walter Hunt in 1840, and 
had been patented in England by Newton and Archbold, in 
1841, for their chain-stitch machine. Howe adopted this 
eye-pointed needle, and united with it a shuttle such as had 
clacked around him in looms all his life. He was wise in 
thus choosing a loom-stitch where one thread interweaves 
itself firmly with another ; and yet, when he turned his back 
on chain-stitch machines it was only after they had taught 
him two golden lessons. First, how a needle, fixed in a 
holder which it never leaves, may vibrate at a pace duly 
varied. Second, how a simple mechanism may be timed so 
that a needle, when below its cloth, expands one loop of 
thread for the admission of a second such loop. The new 
devices he had to invent were chiefly a shuttle duly laden 
with a lower thread, and the means to throw this shuttle at 
proper intervals through loops of an upper thread. Howe 
at this time was no longer in the employ of Davis : he was 
at work on his own account, giving every moment he could 
spare to his model. He completed it toward the close of 
1844, and it sewed a fairly good seam, with promise of 
sewing still better when improved in plan and workman- 


Howe's father at this time was living in Cambridge, 
where he was cutting palm leaves into strips for hats on a 
machine invented by his brother William. Elias, junior, 
with a view to economy, went to live at his father's house, 
setting up a lathe so as to execute any odd jobs that might 
be offered him. During the next few months he worked 
at little else than his sewing machine, exciting his neighbors 
to remark that he was simply wasting his time. His odd 
jobs were so few that often the inventor was without a 
dollar in his pocket. His father was anxious to help him, 
but could do nothing, as a fire had destroyed the palm-leaf 
machine and swept away all his earnings. As Elias Howe 
from day to day proceeded with his model, he clearly saw 
that his design would miss a fair test if his model were not 
built with the same precision as a clock. And where were 
the means for such an outlay to come from, when money 
for bread was frequently lacking? 

Just then a friend came to his rescue, George Fisher, a 
fuel dealer. He had recently come into a legacy, and as 
this windfall was still warm in his pocket, he was in the 
humor to take up any promising speculation. Many a 
time had he heard Howe's confident hopes of triumph and 
fortune, and now Fisher was prevailed upon to become a 
partner with Howe in his great project of a sewing machine. 
Fisher was to receive the Howe family into his house as 
guests ; and while Howe was perfecting his model, Fisher 
was to adv*ance $500 toward buying materials and tools. If 
the machine proved worthy of a patent, a half share therein 
was to be Fisher's property. Early in 1844, Howe took up 
his quarters with Fisher, installing his lathe in a low-studded 
attic. For a long time nobody but Fisher shared Howe's 
hopes of victory. Fisher once testified in court : " I was 
the only one of his neighbors and friends who had any 
confidence in the success of his invention. Howe was gen- 


erally regarded as visionary in undertaking anything of 
the kind, and I was thought foolish to assist him." 

During the winter of 1844-45, Howe labored steadily at 
his machine. So clear and vivid was his imagination that 
he seemed to be copying a model as it stood before him, 
instead of giving form to conceptions which were as yet 
conceptions only. This picturing faculty had the happy ef- 
fect that Howe was not delayed by a single misfit as part 
joined part week after week. By April, 1845, the stitch- 
forming mechanism was advanced to the point where it 
sewed with evenness and smoothness. Within less than a 
month Howe finished his model, and his invention, in every 
essential feature, was complete. In July it sewed a suit of 
clothes for Fisher, and another suit for himself. These 
garments were of strong material, yet their stitches out- 
lasted the cloth. Every contrivance in Howe's original 
model has since his day been bettered or transmuted, for 
what is one inventor as compared with all other inventors? 
And many new devices which never entered the head of 
Elias Howe have been added to his model during the past 
sixty years. But at this hour no successful sewing machine 
plies in freedom from debt to Howe's design of 1845. Let 
us look at its construction : 

A firm base, A, carries an overhanging arm, B. Through 
the side and extremity of this arm works a shaft, C, to 
which is attached the fly-wheel, D, driven by hand at E. 
The thread for the top stitch is taken continuously from the 
spool, F, and fed to the curved needle, a, through a spring, 
b. The needle works through the cloth at c. The cloth is 
carried upon pins, d. The needle arm, G, and the baster 
or feed-plate, H, work so that the plate moves the cloth 
forward one stage at the completion of every stitch. The 
shuttle is driven by a rod, J, which is caused to vibrate 
backwards and forwards by means of the cam, L. The 
cam I, screwed upon the sleeve, Q, actuates the lever, P, 


which action gives a rocking motion to the short shaft, O, 
and the needle arm, on being connected with this, vibrates, 


carrying the needle into and out of the cloth at each revolu- 
tion of the hand-wheel. The cloth to be sewn is suspended 
vertically by pins on the edge of its baster plate, H, which 


has holes engaging with the teeth of a small pinion which 
moves intermittently. 

This feed was the least happy element in Howe's machine. 
A superior feed, in wheel form, was invented by John J. 
Greenough in 1842, and was included in his through-and- 
through sewing machine patented in that year. Green- 
ough's wheel-feed allowed cloth to be sewn in any direction 
whatever, Howe's feed was restricted to a straight line. 
This limitation was soon overcome by the inventors who 
took up Howe's machine where he left it, and improved it 
in every feature. 

To Howe let us return. When he had improved his de- 
vices for tension, so as to stitch with neatness and uni- 
formity, he invited a tailor from Boston to Cambridge to 
use the machine, and pass upon its merits and faults. The 
tailor declined his invitation: he believed that if Howe's 
expectations were fulfilled, the tailoring brotherhood would 
soon be reduced to beggary. Howe then canvassed other 
tailors, whom he besought to test his invention. No, said 
they, with united breath. Their objections were manifold; 
they were certain that no machine work could be so strong 
and even as hand stitching. " To the proof," quoth Howe. 
Bringing his machine to the Quincy Hall Clothing Factory, 
he sat in front of it and sewed seams in any garment handed 
to him. Visitors were astonished to watch him sew 250 
perfect stitches in a minute, a pace at least sevenfold that 
of handwork. For two weeks Howe sewed for all comers, 
and responded to queries with his May morning smile. 
There was a vein of sport in him, and it came out as he 
pitted his stitcher against a united band of five young 
seamstresses, chosen for their speed. He was ungallant 
enough to win; and not only in pace did he surpass his 
competitors ; they acknowledged his seam to be the best of 
the six. Yet for all this repeated triumph of brass and 
steel over fingers of flesh and blood, nobody took any real 


interest in Howe's invention. To borrow a phrase from 
the economists, no effective demand was in evidence. Howe 
heard a great many Ah's and Oh's as he shot his needle 
swiftly through its cloth; but when his visitors departed, 
they never gave his machine another thought, so far as he 
could see. 

Its most serious fault was often pointed out; its baster 
plate limited seams to straight lines, so that only part of a 
coat or waistcoat could be stitched. Howe's machine saved 
most labor, therefore, in manufacturing shirts and skirts, 
sheets and quilts, having straight sewing. Then this very 
fact of dispensing with much labor was turned against 
Howe by employers, who feared trouble with their work 
people if they adopted his sewing machine. One candid 
objector said : " We are doing well enough as we are. Your 
machine is costly to buy and to keep in order. There is no 
good reason why we should bother with it." This man, in 
alluding to the high cost of the machine, $300, pointed to 
Howe's chief obstacle. A shirt manufacturer on a large 
scale might need thirty to forty machines, entailing an out- 
lay of $9,000 to $12,000, a good deal of money in those days. 
Since then, while the sewing machine has been immensely 
improved, its price has steadily fallen. At the outset of 
his experiments, Howe rejoiced when he could sew 250 
stitches a minute. To-day the pace may be fourteen times 
faster, and the one check on still higher speed is the undue 
heating of needles. 

Howe was not disheartened by the cool reception accorded 
his machine. He saw what its economy meant, if nobody 
else did, and he was unshaken in his faith that it would yet 
bring him fame and fortune. He forthwith began to build a 
second model, to be lodged in the Patent Office at Wash- 
ington, as the law then required. For three months he 
toiled at this machine, putting aside all other tasks. By the 
following spring, that of 1846, his new model was finished, 


but he had no cash for a journey to Washington, or to pay 
the fees at the Patent Office. To earn a little money, he 
ran a locomotive on the Boston and Albany Railroad. A 
few weeks of this drudgery and exposure prostrated him. 
He bade good-by to the footboard, retaining to the end of 
his days a lively recollection of its exhausting demands. 
In the following August, Fisher agreed to pay all expenses 
of securing a patent, including the cost of a visit to Wash- 
ington. Without a day's delay, Howe and Fisher went to 
the national capital, where, on September icth, a patent for 
the sewing machine was duly sealed. Its issue was a piece 
of quiet and unmarked routine, with no augury of the pro- 
longed legal battles its claims were to provoke. At Wash- 
ington, Howe displayed his stitcher at a fair, eliciting the 
usual expressions of wonder. But nobody wanted to buy 
the machine, or even hire a machine, so that, beyond vocal 
encouragement, Howe went empty away. At home once 
more in Cambridge, Fisher's disappointment was outspoken. 
Not the remotest possibility did he see of being repaid ad- 
vances which to him were large, amounting to $2,000. In 
Fisher's despair Howe refused to join. For the time being 
he again took shelter under the roof of his good old 

But something must be done. England had larger fac- 
tories than America : why not offer the machine in Eng- 
land? Howe decided to send a machine to London, in 
charge of his brother, Amasa, who embarked for London in 
October, 1846, as a steerage passenger in a sailing packet. 
Soon after his arrival, he found in Cheapside the shop of 
William Thomas, who manufactured, on a large scale, 
corsets, shoes, and umbrellas, wares for the most part 
stitched in straight lines. As Amasa clicked out his seams 
at a swift pace, Thomas candidly expressed his admiration. 
He bought the machine for 250 ($1,217), including per- 
mission to use as many more machines as he pleased. 


Thomas, furthermore, was at liberty to patent the invention 
in England. He gave a verbal promise, which he never ful- 
filled, to pay the inventor three pounds ($14.60) for every 
machine sold in England. For years Thomas received 
royalties up to ten pounds on the machines he sold: on 
these he never paid Howe a penny. The main branch of 
Thomas's business was corset-making, and for this work 
he desired that Elias Howe should specially adapt a ma- 
chine, offering a salary of three pounds a week if he 
would come to London for the purpose. Amasa posted to 
Cambridge with this offer, taking Elias his 250, a sum 
which soon vanished in the payment of debts long stand- 
ing. As America still had its back turned to his invention, 
Howe accepted Thomas's proposal. In February, 1847, the 
brothers embarked for London, setting up in their quar- 
ters a small cookstove, so as to leave their few dollars un- 

When they reached London, Thomas installed them in a 
workshop, fully equipped with materials and tools. He did 
more: he advanced Howe enough cash to bring his wife 
and children to England, where they arrived ten weeks 
afterward. At the end of eight months' diligent labor, 
Howe handed Thomas a machine perfectly adapted to 
corset-making. If the sewing machine entered no other 
field than this, it was certain here to win its buyer a hand- 
some fortune. When Howe asked Thomas, " What next ? " 
Thomas replied : " You are to execute miscellaneous re- 
pairs." His tone was so haughty that the sensitive Yankee 
resented it, only to be dismissed on the spot. 

Howe was in a distressing plight : he was penniless in a 
strange city: his wife was out of health, while three chil- 
dren needed her constant care. But now, as in every other 
dark hour of his life, he had a friend to help him, although 
this man, Charles Inglis, was almost as poor as himself. 
Inglis was a coachmaker, who had become acquainted with 


Howe at Thomas's factory, and had taken a warm liking 
to him. He enabled the unfortunate inventor to hire a 
small room as a workshop, where, with a few borrowed 
tools, he began to build his fourth machine. As the task 
went forward day by day, improvements suggested them- 
selves, so that Howe found his task prolonged far beyond 
the term he had at first assigned it. He had to choose 
between bringing his expenses to the lowest notch or aban- 
doning his work. From his little flat of three rooms he 
removed to one room in the cheapest district of Surrey. 
Even this saving did not suffice, so he managed to send his 
family to America, where they could live at less cost than 
in London. For his own fare across the Atlantic, Howe 
looked to the sale of his machine, now fast approaching 
completion. This machine, at the end of four months' 
labor, stood finished at last. Although Howe priced it at 
fifty pounds ($243), he received little more than fifty shil- 
lings for it. His only customer was a poor workman who 
offered him five pounds in the form of a promissory note. 
This wretched proffer Howe was obliged to accept, selling 
the note for four pounds. To pay his debts, and his fare 
to New York, he had to pawn his letters patent and his 
precious first machine. To save sixpence, he drew his 
baggage on a hand cart to the ship. Again he descended 
to the steerage, with his partner in distress; Charles Inglis, 
in the next bunk. 

It was a sunshiny morning in early April when Elias 
Howe landed in New York and walked up Broadway from 
the Battery. He had only sixty cents in his pocket, but 
what of that? On his homeward voyage he had heard 
that work was a-plenty in New York : and so it proved. 
He found employment at once in a machine shop and at 
good wages. He had barely settled down at his bench 
when he received sad news from his wife. For two years 
past she had suffered from consumption, and was now 


dying. A few days later Howe received ten dollars from 
his father; this enabled him to reach his wife's bedside 
in time to say farewell. At her funeral the stricken hus- 
band appeared in decent garments of black which he had 
borrowed from his brother-in-law: his own wardrobe held 
nothing beyond a frayed working-suit. Howe's natural 
cheeriness was now quenched. He was heartbroken, with 
a face as wrinkled and haggard as if ten years had passed 
since his return to America. To his great affliction a 
minor misfortune added itself. The ship bearing his house- 
hold furniture was wrecked, on its way from England, on 
a reef of Cape Cod. Howe's utter misery moved his old 
friends to compassion; they took charge of his motherless 
children and bade him be of good cheer. While his neigh- 
bors poohpoohed his inventiveness, they highly esteemed 
his skill as a mechanic. He was soon at work again as a 
journeyman machinist, with no immediate prospects of 
ever being anything else. 

At his bench one day he learned, to his astonishment, that 
his sewing machine had become famous, but not under his 
name. During his absence in London, pirates had stolen his 
invention, masking its essential features so as, if possible, 
to hide their theft. Howe, poor though he was, resolved 
to make these thieves drop their plunder. He taught them, 
to their cost, that for all his mild and easy-going ways, he 
was one of the most formidable suitors who ever entered a 
courtroom. Although he had then hardly a dollar of his 
own, he was able to command the dollars of a friend who 
believed in him and in his machine. At the outset of his 
legal battles, Howe was a journeyman, with his original 
model and his patent pledged for debt 3,000 miles away. 
When his battles were at an end, his patent was acknowl- 
edged as basic, and a great national industry was paying 
him a fortune every year as royalty. 

But in the meantime he underwent a struggle that all but 


overwhelmed him. First came the pang when his friend 
Fisher bade him good-by, and sold his half interest in the 
sewing machine to George W. Bliss. This new partner felt 
certain that, if the sewing machine proved a success, it 
would yield a vast income to its owner. As a promising 
speculation he advanced the cash necessary to pursue the in- 
fringers of Howe's patent, and advised the best line of at- 
tack upon them. But Bliss, with all his faith and enter- 
prise, was a man of extreme caution. He required his loan 
to be secured by a mortgage on the farm of Howe, senior. 
This was granted. It was because Howe's father had un- 
faltering confidence in his son, and came gallantly to his 
rescue again and again, that Elias Howe came to victory 
at last. His suits went forward slowly from stage to stage, 
after the manner of suits then and now, so that the inventor 
had abundant leisure to exhibit his machine when he pleased, 
and to promote its sale where he could. 

New York, he felt sure, offered him the best base for his 
operations, so thither he removed, to open a small shop in 
Gold Street. There, in the closing months of 1850, he built 
fourteen machines. In the following autumn one of them . 
was shown at the Castle Garden Fair: it sewed gaiters, 
pantaloons, and waistcoats as fast as they were proffered. 
Other machines went to Worcester, Massachusetts, where 
they sewed bootlegs, a severe test of their strength and 
precision. Two machines at a Broadway clothier's gave 
equal satisfaction. Thus Howe was not only the inventor 
of the modern sewing machine, he was the first to introduce 
it to manufacturers, and break ground for the legion of ^ 
demonstrators and canvassers who soon entered the field. 

Of Howe's opponents in and out of court, much the 
ablest and most formidable was a man who began his 
career as an actor and theatrical manager. This was Isaac 
Morton Singer, who patented, in 1851, improvements on 
Howe's original model. Singer's needle moved vertically 


instead of horizontally: he replaced a hand-wheel by a 
treadle : he adopted Greenough's roughened wheel-feed, ex- 
tended through a slot of his table, a device distinctly bet- 
ter than Howe's baster-plate. He revived Thimonnier's 
presser-foot to hold down cloth, to which he added a yield- 
ing spring. But it was neither as an inventor nor a bor- 
rower of inventions that Singer shone : it was as a business 
organizer. To him incomparably more than to anybody 
else is due the awakening of the civilized world to the im- 
mense value of sewing machines. His experience on the 
stage and in the box office had taught him how to use 
brass bands, limelights, and printer's ink. He knew how 
many lessons the management and transportation of cir- 
cuses could teach the chieftains of war and industry. He 
advertised and placarded; he canvassed and exhibited; he 
arranged exciting contests widely reported in the press. 
And more : he established agencies under central control, 
where buyers were instructed, where repairs could be 
promptly executed at small expense. He thus abolished the 
cost and risk of selling to merchants on credit; he made it 
feasible to present the whole world at a stroke with a new 
type of machine, with any new accessory of real merit. 
He was a man cordially hated by his rivals, but in their 
hearts they had to respect him. He was wise in choosing 
associates, mechanical, commercial, legal. On lines many 
years ago projected by Singer, the principal sewing ma- 
chine factories of the globe are to-day united at one center 
in New York. Each factory makes what it can make to 
advantage, exchanging part of its output with sister con- 
cerns. The largest of these factories, located at Singer, 
Clydebank, Scotland, employs 12,000 hands. A corps of 
inventors are kept busy the year round in adapting machines 
to new duties. One year, special attention may be be- 
stowed upon embroidering, and the next year upon lining 
the hats of men and women. In the factory at Bridgeport, 



Connecticut, is a museum of sewing machines which is the 
most complete in existence. 

Singer, the original mainspring of this vast system, 
from his first sight of a Howe machine was convinced of 
its immense value. In seeking to invade Howe's patent he 
came, one evening, upon news that cheered him greatly. 
He heard, what we already know, that in 1834 Walter Hunt, 
of New York, had invented a machine which produced a 
lock-stitch by means of an eye-pointed needle and a recipro- 
cating shuttle. " Then," said Singer, " Howe was second 
in the field, and his patent is worthless." But where was 



Hunt's machine to be found, so as to be producible in 
court? It lay as rubbish in a workshop in that very Gold 
Street where stood Howe's premises. Hunt's machine was 
carefully cleaned and repaired, but neither its inventor nor 
any one else could sew a stitch with it. Hunt, in his time, 
had taken out scores of patents, and why he had never 
applied for a patent on this machine was plain. While its 
mechanism came near to efficiency, it just missed efficiency. 
Its unfortunate creator was a Mr. Ready-to-halt, and his 
want of a little courage and persistence had lost him one of 
the great prizes of the nineteenth century. In 1854, Hunt 
applied for a patent on his sewing machine; it was refused 


on the ground of abandonment. Court after court listened 
impartially to his plea, always deciding in favor of Howe. 
Theirs was a remarkable case of the same invention oc- 
curring independently to more than one mind. Both Hunt 
and Howe were familiar with eye-pointed needles, and with 
shuttles which interwove one thread with another. Each 
inventor joined these cardinal elements in a machine which, 
with him, was original. To the man who took the trouble 
to bring his invention to a practical success, was awarded 
the palm. In 1854, after a long trial against an infringer, 
in which all the adducible evidence was presented, Judge 
Sprague, of Massachusetts, decided that " The plaintiff's 
(Howe's) patent is valid, and the defendant's machine is 
an infringement. . . . There is no evidence in the case 
that leaves the shadow of a doubt that, for all the benefit 
conferred on the public by the invention of the sewing 
machine, the public is indebted to Mr. Howe." 

This judgment was rendered nine years after Howe's 
first machine was built, and when eight years of his patent 
had expired. Even with all judicial decisions in his favor, 
the inventor's royalties were small. This cloud had a 
golden lining. Mr. Bliss, who owned half the patent, about 
this time passed away, and Howe was able to buy his share 
at a low figure, and thus, for the first time, become sole 
owner of his patent. This purchase was effected just as 
public indifference was thawing, and when, for the time be- 
ing, Howe's rivals had dropped their arms. Fortune now 
arose in a floodtide which soon swept Howe safely out of 
the shoals and shallows, where he had been buffeted so 
long. His income mounted by leaps and bounds from a 
few hundreds a year to more than $200,000, as much as a 
million would be to-day. 

But the peace then ruling the sewing machine industry 
could not last long in the presence of so broad a stream of 
gold pouring into Howe's coffers. Leading manufacturers 


rebelled against paying him further " tribute," and among 
themselves they had endless quarrels as to alleged infringe- 
ments. Early in 1856, the suits of these complainants were 
to be tried at Albany, New York, and loud were the threats 
of disaster hurled by each camp in succession. In hotel- 
lobbies, in the ante-chambers of justice itself, faces were 
flushed with anger, and imprecations issued from unguarded 
lips. One party to the fray was an eminent lawyer of New 
York, George Gifford, who kept his head cool and his 
mind clear. His professional experience had taught him 
that the demands of clients are not always free from hum- 
bug. Without knowing it, he was a forerunner of the 
modern trust magnates, who have remodeled American in- 
dustry. Said he : " In Albany to-day are assembled the men 
who control the sewing machine manufacture of the globe. 
Let them join hands instead of shutting their fists, and they 
will find vastly more profit in peace than in war." A sur- 
vivor of that conference remembers one cause which con- 
tributed to the success of this sagacious plea. Even the 
most just man of them all did not wish his record unveiled 
and attacked in open court. Many a new patent bore an 
unmistakable filial resemblance to an old patent still in 
force. No accuser of others, however vehement, felt him- 
self to be wholly blameless. The peacemaker was blessed 
with success. .The threatened battle never came off, Howe's 
patent being recognized as fundamental by the twenty-four 
assembled licensees. Every machine sold in America was 
to pay Howe $5; every exported machine, $i. In 1861, 
Howe's patent was renewed : thenceforward his royalty for 
machines, wherever sold, was one dollar. All licensees 
taxed themselves heavily to prosecute infringers. These 
gentry raised an outcry about " combination " and " extor- 
tion," but they soon grew weary of its hollow and un- 
echoed sound. 

Howe was now a rich man at last, and he frankly en- 


joyed his good fortune. His generous soul was rejoiced 
in bestowing goodly gifts upon his kindred and friends. 
More than aught else his heart was gladdened by an oppor- 
tunity to render a service to the nation. He had seen, with 
quickened pulse, his machine provide Union troops with 
millions of uniforms and haversacks, tents and sails, 
cartridge-boxes and shoes, which, within the time-limits of 
battle could not possibly have been sewn by hand. Let an 
example of this despatch be cited: One afternoon, at three 
o'clock, a telegram reached New York from the War De- 
partment at Washington, requiring 50,000 sandbags for field 
defenses. Within twenty-three hours the bags were cut 
from their cloth, sewn, baled, and shipped on an express 
train southward bound. With many a service like this to 
his credit, Elias Howe might well have excused himself 
from enlisting as a soldier, especially in view of his lame- 
ness. But he was not a man who dealt in excuses, or who 
loved his country with anything less than his whole heart. 
He organized the Seventeenth Regiment of Connecticut, and 
presented each officer with a horse. He was elected Colonel, 
and, sensible man that he was, he declined the honor, tak- 
ing a place in the ranks as a private, serving faithfully 
until his health gave way. For some weeks, in camp near 
Baltimore, he was regimental postmaster, riding to and 
from the city every day with mail bags sewn, we may be 
sure, on a Howe machine. 

That machine was destined soon to be radically improved, 
and in some features wholly supplanted, by other inventors. 
Of these men the most remarkable was Allen B. Wilson, 
who was born in Willet, Cortlandt County, New York, on 
October 18, 1824. It was in 1847, during a brief stay at 
Adrian, Michigan, where he was a journeyman cabinet- 
maker, that he conceived the idea of a sewing machine. He 
had never seen such a thing, even in a picture or a diagram. 
A few months later he removed to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 


where, toward the close of 1848, he completed his drawings. 
Next came the task of carrying out his plans in wood, iron, 
and brass. He found a friend in his employer, who al- 
lowed him the free run of his shop at night, so that his 
model might be built when the day's work was over. Wil- 
son was not a machinist, and he had none of a machinist's 
tools. But by the end of the following March he had built 
every part of his model with his own hands. It was, of 
course, rough in its workmanship, but it neatly stitched 
several dress waists, to the delight of their owners and all 
Pittsfield. Wilson's design included an eye-pointed needle, 
and a two-pointed shuttle which made a stitch at every mo- 
tion forward and backward. He included a two-motion 
feed, which led him to devise afterward his four-motion 
feed, an invention of prime importance. Wilson's original 
feed had the great merit of permitting a seam to take any 
line whatever, straight, curved, or crooked, at an operator's 
pleasure. This was effected by a toothed bar moved to 
and fro horizontally in constant contact with the cloth, 
which it moved onward at proper intervals by the forward 
inclination of its teeth. It receded while its cloth was 
held in position by the needle, during the brief time before 
the needle was withdrawn. 

The following May, that of 1849, found Wilson at North 
Adams, Massachusetts, where he built a second machine on 
the same general plan as the first, and with better construc- 
tion. This served as his model in obtaining a patent on 
November 12, 1850. Wilson was an acute critic of his own 
contrivances, and, as his shuttle gave him much trouble, 
he resolved to replace it, if possible, with a rotating hook 
suggested in chain-stitch machines. Next, he replaced his 
two-motion feed with a segmental screw device. His new 
machine, thus improved, was patented on August 12, 1851, 
the day on which Isaac M. Singer received a patent for 
his first sewing machine. Wilson experimented constantly 


with a new stitch-forming mechanism, and at last perfected 
a rotary hook, which he patented on June 15, 1852. This 
latest machine displayed a device which became quite as 
famous as the rotary hook; yet, strange to say, although 
Wilson described it promptly enough, he did not patent it 
until December 19, 1854. This was his four-motion feed, 
which for many years had all but universal vogue, and 
earned fortunes for its inventor and his assigns. In its 


original model it consisted of a serrated bar which, by means 
of cams, had a horizontal to-and-fro movement, and a 
vertical up-and-down motion. The serrated upper surface 
of this bar worked through an opening in the table upon 
which was laid the cloth to be sewn. Above the cloth 
moved a yielding presser-plate. The feeding-bar first rose 
so as to bring its roughened surface in contact with the 
underside of the cloth ; it then moved horizontally forward 
a stitch-length, and carried the cloth along; then it 


descended below the level of the table, so as to leave the 
cloth free from contact. Finally, it returned to its original 
position, completing its cycle. This four-motion feed sup- 
plied the keystone for the arch of sewing mechanism, as- 
suring its acceptance for households throughout the civ- 
ilized world. 

In devising a rotary hook to take the place of a shuttle 
driven to and fro, Wilson brought stitching machines from 
the second rank to the first, taking the step which divides 
continuous motion from motion interrupted and reversed. 
The advances in which his revolving hook marked a stride, 
doubtless began with the very dawn of human ingenuity. 
At first, we may imagine, burdens too heavy for human 
shoulders were dragged on the ground. It was an in- 
estimable saving of toil when a round log, by way of a 
roller, was placed between the burden and the earth, in 
clear prophecy and promise of a wheel. Of kin to that early 
triumph, and almost as useful, are the circular saw, the 
rotary planer, and the milling cutter with its wonderful 
offspring, the Blanchard lathe. Early dynamos and motors 
were reciprocating; soon rotary designs took the field, to 
hold it forever. Oars dipped into water, throb after throb, 
were the first crude imitations of the galley-slave ; they have 
disappeared even from museums, in favor of rotary screws 
and revolving paddle-wheels. And the engine which ac- 
tuates a huge propeller is more and more frequently a 
steam turbine, the steadiest of steam motors, which lightens 
the floors not only of steamships, but of factories and cen- 
tral power stations, while it everywhere yields smooth run- 
ning instead of a wasteful and damaging vibration. It is 
the rotary hook which to-day makes feasible a speed of 
3,500 stitches in a minute, so that the only limit to further 
celerity is the heat created by friction on needles as smooth 
as glass. 

Wilson formed a partnership with Nathaniel Wheeler, a 


man of ability and integrity, who manufactured hardware at 
Watertown, Connecticut. There, Wheeler & Wilson first 
produced their sewing machines. Shortly afterward they 
removed to Bridgeport, in the same State. Their premises, 
small at first, have been repeatedly enlarged. They now ac- 
commodate 1,500 hands as Factory Number Ten of the 
Singer circuit. Mr. Wilson's talents lay solely in the field 
of invention ; business had little attraction for him. He re- 
tired from the firm of Wheeler & Wilson in 1853, with a 
goodly income as the reward of his unique devices. He 
died in Woodmont, Connecticut, on April 29, 1888. 

Only once has a sewing machine been born in America 
outside the New England States. This was in 1855, when 
James A. E. Gibbs, a farmer of Millpoint, Virginia, one 
evening noticed in the Scientific American a picture of a 
sewing machine. All that the illustration showed was the 
upper mechanism, and Gibbs puzzled his brains to imagine 
the unpictured devices which formed the stitch. He kept 
asking himself : " What takes place after the needle punc- 
tures its cloth ? " For months this question weighed him 
down. At last light glimmered in his brain, and he thought 
out the revolving hook which enchains the stitches in a 
Wilcox & Gibbs machine. But this hook had to be part- 
nered with Howe's eye-pointed needle, and with Wilson's 
four-motion feed, so that Gibbs had, at first, to pay seven 
dollars in tribute as he equipped each of his machines. 

It would take a very big book to recite the achievements 
of other inventors in this broad and fruitful field of sewing 
devices. Flying the temptation, let us return to the man 
who led the procession, Elias Howe. While he still enjoyed 
a fair measure of health and activity, he was gratified by 
seeing his machine adapted to many diverse tasks, all ex- 
ecuted as speedily as plain sewing. Soon a Howe machine 
could not only stitch, but hem and gather, fold and braid, 
embroider, and make buttonholes. To-day the successors 


of his machines darn and mend with astonishing neatness, 
and, in the manufacture of shoes and much else, a knife 
trims away the superfluous edge of leather or lining as fast 
as its seam is sewn. 

Many labor-savers have of late years found their way into 
American homes, to take places beside the sewing machine, 
yet that machine remains the most important of them all. 
In those sensible households where clothing and table 
linen, drapery for windows and the like, continue plain 
and simple, this machine despatches their seams in one- 
tenth the time required of old. For a good many years its 
motion was imparted by treadles; this was fatiguing, and 
gave rise to serious maladies. In factories, treadles were 
abolished as soon as it was found that, with dependence on 
steam-power, an operator could turn out one-fourth more 

The sewing machine, in its quick output of garments for 
men, women, and children, has created the ready-made 
clothing business, which now offers as carefully patterned 
and finished raiment as made-to-order clothes were, a gen- 
eration since. To-day, thanks to Howe, undergarments 
cost but very little more than their cloth as delivered by the 
weaver. A few years ago, a manufacturer in New Eng- 
land sold vast quantities of unlaundered shirts at fifty 
cents each. His profits, estimated at forty dollars a day, 
were mainly derived from his cuttings, from which the best 
paper was manufactured. 

Clothing for women is seldom of the plainness of these 
cheap shirts. A century ago it may have required a month 
to sew a lady's outfit for a year's wear. To-day that lady's 
great-granddaughter may want a seamstress at a swift ma- 
chine to keep busy for that same month, as one elaborate 
garment is added to another. Where wiser counsels pre- 
vail, the plain sewing of a family becomes, with an electric 
motor, little else than a recreation. In some towns and 


cities of the United States and Canada, electricity costs only 
one-quarter of a cent for a horse-power running one hour. 
Suppose that the current to drive a machine is one-eighth 
of a horse-power: at that price a sewing machine may be 
impelled thirty-two hours for a single cent. In his early 
days, the cost of a machine was so high that Howe hardly 
expected its adoption by families. It was usually imagined, 
too, that operation was difficult to master. And yet, by 
1867, the price of a good machine had fallen to $55, and 
in one hour an intelligent woman could learn to work it 
rapidly. To-day one-half the sewing machines are busy in 
households, and the other half in factories. 

It was the fate of Elias Howe, who bestowed so great a 
gift upon the world, to enjoy its rewards only a few years. 
The hardships of his protracted struggle undermined a con- 
stitution never robust, even in his youth. In the summer of 
1867 he developed Bright's disease at his daughter's house 
in Brooklyn, and there, after a short illness, he passed away 
on October 3d, at the early age of forty-eight years. This 
daughter, Mrs. Jane R. Caldwell, died in New York in 
August, 1912. Her mother, Elizabeth Ames, died when 
Mrs. Caldwell was but seven years of age. In 1859 her 
father had his portrait painted by Joseph Eliot, of Albany: 
it had the place of honor in Mrs. Caldwell's home in the 
Borough of the Bronx, ten miles from the City Hall of New 
York. By her courtesy this portrait has been reproduced 
for these pages. Mrs. Caldwell remembered how her father 
was wont to go about his house all day with a shuttle in his 
hand, thinking about new tension devices and the like. It 
is certain that, had he lived to the allotted span of human 
life, he and nobody else would have created for his machine 
many an improvement now bearing the names of men whom 
he instructed and inspired. 

[From Photograph by F. Gutekunst, Philadelphia.] 


A SMALL group of inventors, high in rank, have been 
educated men who have pioneered new paths in response to 
an instinct, rather than as a matter of professional quest 
with gain as its goal. A thoroughly equipped amateur of 
this type was General Benjamin Chew Tilghman, of Phila- 
delphia. His independence and vigor of mind brought 
him to ideas wholly original, and his competency of fortune 
enabled him to develop these ideas with unflagging ardor 
throughout a long life. He had the prime impulse in- 
dispensable to any great success whatever an intense in- 
terest in his work. Hobby riding by ordinary men adds 
no little cheer and refreshment to their lives. When a man 
of General Tilghman's ability chooses invention not as a 
hobby, but as his career, the toil of research and construc- 
tion is a joy to him, and a joy which is heightened as his 
work confers boons and benefits upon his fellow men. Gen- 
eral Tilghman was a reserved and quiet gentleman of the old 
school, so averse from publicity that his achievements have 
never attracted the attention they richly merit. 

His high breeding and personal dignity were the heritage 
of centuries. He traced his descent from Richard Tilgh- 
man, a man of Danish blood, who died in 1463 on his Eng- 
lish estate, Holloway Court, near Rochester. Sixth from 
him in the direct line was another Richard Tilghman, a 
surgeon, who entered the British Navy under Admiral 
Blake, to become, like his commander, an ardent follower of 
Cromwell. This Tilghman signed the famous petition ask- 
ing that justice be done to one Charles Stuart. From the mo- 
ment when this " justice " led Charles I. to the scaffold, the 
grasp of Cromwell upon England became insecure. The 



strength of the Royalists grew steadily, and Tilghman and 
his party were openly flouted as regicides, worthy of the gal- 
lows. Eleven years after the beheading of the king, and just 
before his son Charles II. came to the throne, Richard Tilgh- 
man and his family emigrated to Lord Baltimore's colony of 
Maryland, where he acquired lands on Charles River in 
what is now Queen Anne County, and where he built the 
Hermitage as his manor-house. His descendants usually 
chose the bar as their profession, rising to its highest rank. 
One of them, Matthew Tilghman, a great-granduncle of 
General Tilghman, came within an ace of signing the 
Declaration of Independence. He was a delegate from 
Maryland when Independence was under consideration. 
When all was settled, he was summoned from his seat in 
Congress to preside at the State Convention in Annapolis. 
There the Constitution for Maryland was formulated, and 
went into effect on August 14, 1776. In his absence his 
alternate, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signed the 
Declaration. He died in 1832, in his ninety-sixth year, the 
last survivor of the men who signed the great document. 
James, Matthew, Edward, and William Tilghman were 
jurists of the foremost mark, William becoming Chief 
Justice of Pennsylvania, and holding for many years the 
presidency of the American Philosophical Society. Fifth 
in line from Richard Tilghman, the sturdy immigrant, was 
Benjamin Tilghman, an eminent lawyer of Philadelphia, 
who, in 1815, espoused Anna Maria McMurtrie. On Oc- 
tober 26, 1821, was born their third child, Benjamin Chew 
Tilghman, who was to win fame as an inventor and dis- 
coverer. Even as a toddler he was remarkable. When he 
was three years old his family lived in Walnut Street, op- 
posite Independence Hall. One day his mother, while out 
shopping, lost him in a thoroughfare nearby. She became 
frantic as she sought him in vain, fearing his death from a 
passing cart, or maiming at the least. When at last she 


came home, there stood her boy, utterly perplexed at her 
agitation and tears. As soon as he had missed his mother, 
he entered a druggist's at the corner, gave the shopman his 
father's name, told where he lived, and asked to be taken 
home. Nothing in all this seemed to him out of the way. 

When nine years old he took typhoid fever; in his de- 
lirium he sang his school ditties and repeated his school 
verses without dropping a word. Anon he imagined him- 
self in command of soldiers to whom he gave orders in im- 
perative tones, with unconscious prophecy of the orders he 
was to give thirty years later on the field of war. As a 
boy he loved fiction and, seated at an entry window upstairs, 
he would read the Waverley romances with delight. His 
brother Dick gave warning if Mother approached. Her 
traditions were Presbyterian, and she frowned upon youths 
of tender years who read novels. In other respects, too, 
her views were austere. Her little sons were never per- 
mitted to wear overcoats. When Benjamin's school days 
were at an end, he proceeded to Bristol College in his na- 
tive State, and thence to the University of Pennsylvania, 
where he was duly graduated. To please his father, and to 
sustain the legal traditions of his family, he studied law 
and was admitted to the bar, but he never practised law. 
Indeed, he always regarded law with disrelish. From youth 
he was more at home in a workshop than in a courtroom or 
a law library. When at his furnace or still he put a ques- 
tion to nature, her responses were not subject to reversal. 
In the vast, unexplored fields of physics and chemistry 
which stretched themselves before his imagination, there 
was abundant scope for the keenest analysis, the utmost sift- 
ing of evidence, the most astute cross-examination. Here, 
he was assured, law and truth were one, and never looked 
askance at each other. 

In every research he toiled hand in hand with his brother, 
Richard Albert Tilghman, two years his junior, to whom he 


was devotedly attached. Together, as young men, they 
journeyed throughout Europe, visiting a succession of 
chemical works and physical laboratories, factories and 
mills, so that they became familiar, as few Americans then 
were, with the best European practice in both manufacture 
and investigation. On their return home, Richard took up 
the study of chrome ores ; these he treated by new methods, 
disposing of his patents to a leading firm in Baltimore for 
a goodly sum. He then experimented with steam at high 
temperatures, discovering that it parted fats into fatty acids 
and glycerine. 

Benjamin, for his part, gradually perfected the produc- 
tion of steel shot, chilled to surpassing hardness, and ex- 
tensively used for sawing, polishing, and grinding stone. 
This shot, placed beneath a saw blade, cuts granite twice as 
effectively as sand, because so tough as to resist a wear 
that would rapidly crush sand, and even emery, to powder. 
In one experiment General Tilghman found his metallic 
granules tenfold as efficient as sand, while the wear on his 
blade was reduced to one-fourth its percentage with sand. 
The best sizes of shot run from i-ioo to 1-20 of an inch in 
diameter. As important as the economy of this shot is the 
accuracy of its cuts. A piece of marble or granite may 
have veins of unusual hardness; these are divided with 
precision, as if the stone were of uniform resistance 

At the end of an exhaustive round of experiments, Gen- 
eral Tilghman said : " A particle of sand is effective in saw- 
ing only when it embeds itself in a blade, to stand there as 
a small sharp tooth. This tooth removes from the stone 
below it one grain at a time, and no more. Contrast this 
with the action of shot : they roll over and over between the 
blade and the stone, and as the point of contact is very 
small, the pressure there concentrated crushes the hardest 
stone to splinters of appreciable size so that the pulveriza- 


tion, imposed upon sand, is avoided. Shot cannot be 
bruised or crushed by the heaviest pressure, so that, strange 
to say, for all the cheapness of cand, it is dearer than shot, 
task for task. As a rule, work is trebled in pace by the 
adoption of shot. At first, to cut a given stone the inventor 
used shot of one size. He soon found it better to employ 
shot of different sizes. In the course of a single sweep of 
the blade the largest shot tend to escape under the blade 
first, then the next in size, and so on to the end of the cut, 
so that the blade always has shot under it while the stone 
is being divided. Almost incredible is the durability of 
shot, for all the severity of its exposure. A gang of five to 
seven blades on Connecticut brown stone will consume but 
200 pounds in a month. A rip-saw, on the same stone, but 
60 pounds per month. A gang on marble uses up about 30 
pounds per blade per month. In sawing a square foot of 
Quincy granite only two pounds are consumed." 

Shot, under a ring drill, is used for driving wells, in 
prospecting for mines, quarries, and veins of oil. It is not 
so fast as a diamond drill, but in many cases it is equally 
satisfactory, while much cheaper. In sinking foundations 
for the Terminal Building, Church and Cortlandt Streets, 
New York, cores six to eight inches in diameter were taken 
out of solid rock, much more economically than was feasible 
by any other method. Not only in cutting stone, but in 
giving it a surface, this chilled iron shot opens a profitable 
field. Granite and other hard stones were formerly rubbed 
smooth by sand or emery. At least nine-tenths of this 
work may be committed to chilled iron shot, which pro- 
ceeds twice to thrice as fast as emery. The use of shot de- 
mands no machinery whatever. The simplest and cheapest 
hand-saw may be used, even if but a strip of sheet iron 1-16 
of an inch thick, 12 to 14 inches long, with " V " notches 
half an inch broad and deep, about two inches apart. With 
no other appliance an ordinary workman has cut a groove 


30 inches long, and about J4 f an mcn deep m Quincy 
granite in twenty minutes ; in soft stone his output was pro- 
portionately more. When this process was first adopted, 
rust was a constant annoyance. This rust is due to the 
trifle of carbon dioxide which water usually contains. A 
little quick-lime added to the water greedily absorbs this 
dioxide, and at once rusting is impossible. In pure water, 
iron may be immersed for weeks and never show the slight- 
est trace of rust. 

Benjamin Tilghman had been quietly conducting his 
factory for some years when, in 1860, the threat of Civil 
War was unmistakable. His passionate love of the Union 
was aroused, and when Fort Sumter was bombarded, he at 
once enlisted as Captain of the Twenty-sixth Regiment of 
United States Volunteers. This regiment, on its way to the 
front, in common with other Union troops, was mobbed in 
passing through Baltimore, and Captain Tilghman deemed 
himself fortunate to escape with his life. In the field he 
speedily earned distinction, and was soon advanced to a 
lieutenant-colonelcy, and then to a colonelcy. Early in 1863 
he was stricken with Chickamauga fever, from drinking in- 
fected water, and for weeks he hovered 'twixt life and 
death. But he recovered in time to bear a doughty part 
in the battle of Chancellorsville, where he received a severe 
wound in a thigh. A slight deflection of the bullet would 
have laid him in his grave. He went home to Philadelphia, 
where, as soon as he was able to hobble about on crutches, 
he was offered the command of a colored regiment. This 
he promptly accepted. His family believed that his death 
knell rang out as the train bore him southward once again. 
Their fears were groundless; he survived the war in vig- 
orous health, while his original regiment, the Twenty-sixth, 
'was cut to pieces not long after his reenlistment. The close 
of the war found him a general by brevet, in command of a 
brigade in Florida. His interest in military art and science 


remained keen as long as he lived; and no veteran of the 
war, whether white or black, ever appealed to him in vain 
for friendly aid. His experience in the field confirmed for 
life his love of fresh air. He had seen many a soldier, 
desperately wounded, recover health and strength in a 
breezy tent. So he was wont to say : " Houses are tombs, 
carpets are shrouds, curtains are grave-clothes." 

One morning, not long after peace had followed war, 
General Tilghman came to a turning-point in his career, and 
simply by keeping his eyes open and thinking about what he 
observed. Among the compounds with which he had been 
experimenting was a little sulphurous acid dissolved in 
water. Aimlessly enough, he bruised a burnt match stick 
into this liquid, and next day noticed that the wood had 
become mucilaginous, so as to look like paper pulp. At 
once he asked : Can this solution convert wood into material 
for paper? He put his surmise to a test, and proved it to 
be sound. What gave particular point to his quest was the 
fact that common paper for printers' use had then risen to 
twenty-eight cents in currency per pound, a price almost 
prohibitory. It was then usual for grocers and butchers 
to buy old newspapers at half price, and use them for wrap- 
ping their parcels. During the Civil War cotton at one 
time reached $1.98 per pound; linen, used as a substitute, 
was almost as dear. As these, and their rags, had been the 
main sources of paper stock, there was an earnest quest, in 
many fields, for substances from which paper might be 

Straw had been employed as an admixture for the coarsest 
brands, and though their sheets were yellow and brittle, 
their preparation by alkalis had taught the manufacturers 
how to attack a vastly better material wood fiber. There- 
fore, when General Tilghman began following up the fate 
of his burnt match stick, with his brother's aid, he did not 
enter upon vacant territory. 


In their chemical production of paper, the Tilghmans 
had many forerunners at home and abroad. As early as 
1821 paper was made from straw by Judge Henry Petti- 
bone, of Meadville, Pennsylvania. One day he observed a 
tub which had just been emptied of lye. On the ground lay 
a handful of straw which had served as a strainer for the 
liquid. The Judge examined a pinch of it in his hand; it 
seemed just such a strong fiber as might produce paper. 
He took some of this fiber and a little clean straw to a 
paper-maker, who soon turned out from the straw a sheet 
of fairly good paper. Of course, the sheet was straw- 
colored, and so brittle that it was suitable only for wrap- 
ping, but when manufactured by the ton it met a wide and 
profitable demand. In 1854, Alfred C. Mellier patented 
in France a method of deriving paper pulp from poplar 
wood by boiling the fibers in caustic soda, under pressure, 
at 310 Fahrenheit, and then treating the product with a 
solution of chloride of lime. His boiler was rotary, so as 
to keep its contents from matting together. Heat was ap- 
plied by a steam jacket. In 1855, Hugh Burgess, of Roger's 
Ford, Pennsylvania, patented a similar process. He was 
followed by other inventors until, in 1866, the Tilghmans 
carried through a round of experiments which, chemically, 
exhausted the field, and left little or nothing to be discov- 
ered by their successors, except in one particular. As this 
affected the material chosen for digesters, it was so vital 
that its lack caused a long delay in the financial success of 
the Tilghman process. For the first digesters, in the Tilgh- 
man mill at Manayunk, near Philadelphia, lead was the 
lining ; this was so rapidly corroded by its acid contents that 
repairs and renewals entailed a net loss to the patentees of 
about $40,000, leading them to abandon their enterprise. 
It was only in 1883, seventeen years after General Tilgh- 
man was granted his patent, that digesters were built of 
concrete so as to resist corrosion as lead cannot. As usual 


with a patent of promise, the Tilghman method excited 
the cupidity of infringers, who would fain hide their theft 
by mutilating the property stolen. But their every de- 
parture, however slight, from the Tilghman rules of proce- 
dure, opened the door to utter failure, no matter what sub- 
stance was molded into digesters. No better evidence can 
be adduced as to General Tilghman's thorough mastery of 
the principles involved in bringing forests under tribute to 
the printing press. 

It is worth while to recall his method as originally out- 
lined by his own hand : " Let the whitest parts of wood be 
chosen, and cut across the grain into slices one-eighth to 
one-fourth of an inch in length. A strong vessel, of any 
convenient size and shape, lined with lead, duly furnished 
with pipes and other accessories, is to be filled about two- 
thirds with water. A solution of sulphurous acid and lime 
sulphite in water, having a specific gravity of 1.08 or so, 
is then introduced until the wood is completely covered and 
the vessel is nearly full. Then the vessel is tightly closed, 
and, by means of a steam jacket, its temperature is brought 
to 260 Fahrenheit, to be there maintained for six to eight 
hours. The steam is then shut off; fresh water is forced 
into the top of the vessel; and the acid solution escapes 
from below into a lead-lined tub, where it is boiled until the 
sulphurous acid is expelled. This gas, piped to a condenser, 
is absorbed by cold water for repeated use in future opera- 
tions. The lime sulphite, usually deposited in the heated 
vessel, may also be used over and over again. The woody 
fiber is thoroughly washed and drained, when it is fit to be 
worked into paper by suitable machinery." 

By removing samples of his product every twenty min- 
utes, the inventor ascertained just how the process went 
on from stage to stage. At first the wood was loosened 
into coarse fibers: these slowly became separated into 
threads finer and finer, until perfect pulp appeared. All the 


cement which had bound together the fibers was dissolved 
into the boiling liquid. Of course, cane, bamboo, and 
palmetto required longer cooking than flax, esparto, and 
similar grasses, reeds, and other annual plants of compara- 
tively weak structure. Intermediate in toughness, and 
therefore in time of boiling, came the poplars, spruces, and 
balsams which are to-day the staple of the pulp industry. 
When a modified treatment was bestowed upon straw and 
grass, osiers and saplings, used for hats, hoops, baskets, and 
mats, they soon acquired a pliability which facilitated and 
improved their manufacture. 

For a round of uses steadily growing wider, paper may 
be of any hue whatever, as when employed for wrapping 
or box-making. Here no lime sulphite need enter the boil- 
ing liquor, and the process may be much abridged, espe- 
cially in washing and cleansing the produced fiber. Gen- 
eral Tilghman early came to the discovery that good re- 
sults are attained at 210 Fahrenheit, two degrees or so 
below the ordinary boiling-point cf water ; and, further, that 
digestion requires no artificial pressure, although pressure 
greatly hastens the process. To-day digesters which may 
be 17 feet wide, and 60 feet high, are constructed with a 
double course of masonry laid in cement mortar upon an 
iron shell. The course next to the shell is composed of 
very hard porous bricks laid in mortar of equal parts of 
sand and Portland cement ; the next, or inside course, is built 
of vitrified, non-porous bricks laid in mortar compounded of 
Portland cement, litharge, sand, and glycerine. The lack 
of this one link in the Tilghman chain held back for years 
a process which now yields in the United States more than 
a million tons of paper pulp every year. 

Since General Tilghman's time, striking improvements 
have been effected in apparatus for burning sulphur, and 
for speedily absorbing the resulting sulphurous acid gas. 
Much, too, has been accomplished in utilizing by-products 


formerly thrown away. But most noteworthy of all are ad- 
vances in the mechanism which builds all kinds of paper 
from pulp, with swiftness and economy, and of uniformly 
sound quality. 

Spruce, the chief material for pulp, is becoming scarce, so 
that experiments with other and cheaper woods have been 
conducted at the Forest Products Laboratory, Wausau, Wis- 
consin, directed by the United States Department of Agri- 
culture. The chemical engineer in charge, Mr. J. H. 
Thickens, reported in December, 1911: "Not only have 
very promising sheets of pulp been obtained from both the 
hemlock and jack pine, but paper has been made from them 
on commercial machines, operating at high speed, and under 
all other conditions of actual commercial practice, which 
has the strength, finish, and appearance of standard news 
paper. The production per grinder, the horse-power con- 
sumption per ton, and the yield per cord approximate the 
averages which obtain in the grinding of spruce." 

General Tilghman gave his sulphite process a thorough 
and costly test, but, balked as he was by the corrosion of 
his digesters, he abandoned a manufacture from which he 
had expected great things, and which to-day far exceeds his 
most sanguine hopes. Without repining or hesitation he 
turned from chemistry to mechanics, to strike a target much 
more important than at first attracted his eye. His experi- 
ments, ending in the sand blast, brought him to one of the 
few underived inventions of all time. Nobody disputes his 
title, or claims a share in his victory. And yet, for ages 
Nature has been giving Art broad hints in this very field. 
As long ago as 1838, to cite one record among many, Pro- 
fessor W. P. Blake, of Yale College, traveling through the 
Pass of San Bernardino, California, noticed granite deeply 
channeled by sweeping sand. Said he : " Even quartz was 
cut away and polished; garnets and tourmalines were also 
cut and left with polished surfaces. Where a garnet or a 


lump of quartz was embedded in compact feldspar, and 
favorably presented for the action of the sand, the feldspar 
was cut away around the hard mineral, which was thus left 
in relief above the general surface. In Monument Park, 
Colorado, is a narrow valley where rounded columns ten 
to forty feet high stand here and there: in many cases 
they are surmounted with grotesque cap-like coverings bal- 
anced upon frail pinnacles. They were carved out by the 
sand, whirling about in eddies of air and water, so as to 
act like the chisels of a lathe. Where the depressions were 
deepest, the rock strata were soft and yielding, and read- 
ily cut away. Where the opposing surface was hard, as 
in the case of the cap-pieces, the action was less rapid. 
Glancing off from these, the whole force of the sand was 
directed against the strata below, reducing them in size, 
until there was hardly enough stem to sustain the weight 

All this is repeated in Wellington Bay, New Zealand, and 
wherever else rocks of varying resistance are assaulted by 
storms of sand. Often, doubtless, this has suggested imi- 
tation by art. In most cases it is likely that the impulse to 
experiment has been checked by the fear that an artificial 
sand storm would be too slow to have commercial value. 
Centuries have been required to do the work described by 
Professor Blake and his fellow explorers. General Tilgh- 
man was the first to follow up suggestion by actual trial, 
and find, as many another inquirer has found, that Nature 
often holds in her hands prizes easier to pluck than they 
seem to be. 

General Tilghman was a gentleman of unusual reserve 
and reticence: and a quest as to how the sand blast sug- 
gested itself to him has unearthed nothing less than a myth 
in the making. Surviving friends of his are wont to say 
that, late in the sixties, he traveled to Egypt, and paid a 
customary visit to the Sphinx, remarking a deep groove 


across the back of its neck, which he referred to the sand 
which had, for centuries, assailed the prone figure. There 
and then, say the mythmakers, it occurred to him that an 
artificial gale, laden with sharp sand, would exert a cutting 
effect of the same kind, at a pace which only experiment 
could ascertain. To experiment accordingly he appealed, 
with the result that he gave the world his sand blast. This 
plausible story is untrue. General Tilghman was never in 
the land of the Pharaohs. How, then, arose this Egyptian 
tale? Simply enough. In 1873 Professor John Tyndall 
was shown the sand blast in Boston, and compared its work 
with that of the sand which had slowly carved the Sphinx 
of the desert. Here lay the sole foundation for a stubborn, 
because widely published, fable. Another tradition is that 
General Tilghman observed how the masonry of Saint 
Paul's Cathedral in London had its corners rounded by 
exposure to blasts laden with dust and dirt. Another and 
more probable story is that, while a soldier in the Southern 
States, he observed rocks whose softer layers had been 
deeply eroded by wind-blown sand. Indeed, all along the 
Atlantic Coast, at Nausett, Massachusetts, and many an- 
other lighthouse, one may see the panes of lower windows 
dulled to opacity by a bombardment of sand. Yet another 
supposition, lacking evidence, is that General Tilghman re- 
marked the cutting action of solids ejected from muskets 
and cannon as part of their explosives. 

The present writer, in striving to hunt down how General 
Tilghman was first impelled to experiment with his sand 
blast, came at last to the Franklin Institute, in Seventh 
Street, Philadelphia, that most venerable storehouse of 
science in America. There, in the Journal of the Institute 
for 1871, was a record by Mr. Coleman Sellers, an eminent 
engineer, of an early exhibit of the sand blast. Mr. Sellers 
says that General Tilghman saw a jet of sand impelled by 
steam escaping at high pressure, and its remarkable effect 




Working parts of upright machine: i, Main frame. 4, Blast 
frame, u, Blast jet. 19, Sand-feed hopper. 20, Sand pipe. 22, 
Round rubber ring. 23, Round rubber ring. 24, Sand jet. 25, 
Chilled tube, in which sand and steam mix. 26, Cone. 



induced him to repeat as an experiment what he first beheld 
as an accident. He soon discovered that a blast of sharp 
sand wrought as deep an incision in one minute as wind- 
blown sand in a year. In an early test he cut a hole one 
and one-half inches wide in a slab of corundum one and one- 
half inches thick, in 25 minutes. His steam was at a 
pressure of 300 pounds to the square inch, which he soon re- 
marked to be excessive ; in ordinary practice he found 10 to 


20 pounds to be enough. In economy his first apparatus 
has never been surpassed. A small annular jet of steam 
escaped into a wide tube, inducing a current of air through 
a narrow central tube. This air carried sand as it fell 
from a hopper, which became thoroughly mixed with the 
steam jet. Appliances of this simple kind were used to 
inscribe no fewer than 274,000 tombstones of soldiers in the 
national cemeteries at Arlington, Virginia, and elsewhere. 
The cost, but $3.35 each, was much less than would have 


been paid for chiseled lettering. This apparatus, effective 
as it was, had faults so serious that it was soon discarded. 
The sand became damp from admixture with the steam, so 
that it clogged its feed pipes unless it was carefully dried 
before use. Glass was apt to be cracked by the heat of the 
sand; iron and steel were rusted. To avoid these troubles 
there was recourse to compressed air, faultless in its work, 
but much more costly than a direct steam blast. 

In 1884 Jeremiah E. Mathewson perfected what General 
Tilghman had begun, retaining the advantage of steam im- 
pulsion, while avoiding its drawbacks. In the machine 
which he devised, sand receives momentum from a steam 
jet, as in the first Tilghman design. But now, before the 
mingled sand and steam hit their target, they meet a coun- 
terblast of cool air, which condenses and sweeps aside the 
steam, while it allows the sand to proceed unchecked to 
do its work in a dry and cool condition. This Mathewson 
apparatus, entirely self-contained, has no moving parts 
whatever. It is started by simply attaching a steam pipe, 
and providing an exhaust flue for the spent steam.* 

Thanks to General Tilghman, many amateurs have ex- 
ecuted capital work with an inexpensive sand stream, dis- 
pensing with a blast altogether. They have filled a hopper 
with sharp, dry sand, and placed it about ten feet above a 
table. From the hopper to within two inches of the table 
runs a vertical pipe, through which the sand falls upon 
panes of glass or other objects to be treated. Beneath the 
table a second hopper receives the sand after its work is 
done ; as soon as the first hopper is empty, this second hop- 
per takes its place. As a rule a blast is delivered from a 

*A Giffard injector, with equal simplicity, employs a steam jet to 
drive water into a boiler. As the steam condenses, it imparts its mo- 
mentum to the feed water, so that with no moving part whatever, an 
injector does all the work of an elaborate pump. 



simple tube ; in some cases it is preferable to employ a tube 
with a long, narrow orifice. 

How does sand, whether falling by gravity or impelled by 
a steam jet, exert so rapid an effect? First of all, we must 
choose sharp, unworn sand, such as abounds in long 
stretches of the Atlantic seashore. Sand of this sort, in 
well-planned manufacture, is sifted into sizes each suited 
to a specific task. A decorator of tumblers selects the 


finest grains he can get. A foundryman, who wishes to 
scour stove-castings, takes the coarsest grains to be had. 
Whatever its size, sand in a blast neither cuts, grinds, nor 
abrades the surface it strikes. To compare small things 
with large, the grains act much as artillery projectiles smash 
a wall of masonry, each shot striking independently of 
every other. In this action the sand blast differs from all 
other processes, and stands alone. A grain of sand has 
many angles, and the sharpest of these comes to the front, 


arrow fashion, as the particle flies through the air. The 
momentum of the particle, small as it is, strikes from a 
mere point, so that even granite gives way before it, and, 
indeed, everything else, however hard, excepting only the 
diamond. At first an observer is astonished as he sees 
corundum swiftly perforated by sand grains much less 
hard and tough. 

Of course, the sand blast works fastest when directed 
upon glass, china, porcelain, or other brittle substances. 
These are depolished in a twinkling, and, strange to say, 
by a blast which the hand can bear without injury or even 
discomfort. Rubber, paper, leather, and other elastic ma- 
terials repel the sand so that its blows are almost without 
effect. This opens the door to a simple means of decora- 
tion. A lamp shade, let us suppose, is to be ornamented 
with an arabesque or a floral design. This, executed in 
paper, is laid upon the glass, when the shade is quickly 
moved in front of the sand blast. All the uncovered parts 
of the glass are fast depolished, so that in a moment they 
look as if they had been neatly ground by an emery-wheel ; 
all the parts covered by the design are unaffected, so that, 
when the paper is washed off, clear glass is uncovered. 

Quite different is the effect of this blast upon wrought 
iron ; at first its surface is merely indented ; after a few 
minutes the uppermost particles of iron, being repeatedly 
bent, break down and crumble. A powerful blast soon 
cleans a forging or a casting from scale and dirt, while 
the metal beneath resists the gale, and emerges bright and 
unworn, unless the bombardment is prolonged of set 

When iron is pickled in an* acid solution as a means of 
cleansing, or glass in like manner is corroded to take a 
pattern, there is attack not only in front, but from the 
sides, and this is often harmful. Here the sand blast has 
a notable advantage^ because its blows are delivered directly 


in the face and nowhere else. Yet these blows are never so 
rude as to break the most delicate ware, although, when 
continued long enough, they pierce the toughest granites, 
and even corundum itself. When glass is manufactured in 
layers of different hues, the sand blast produces cameo ef- 
fects of great beauty. It may then swiftly turn out labels 
for measures, and for the large glass bottles used by chem- 
ists and druggists. It removes a scale from forgings and 
castings as a preparation for gilding and enameling, tinning 
or nickeling. It scours the outside of a bank-safe, and 
then smooths the armor plates of warships. It incises mar- 
ble, limestone, or granite with letters and ornaments. It 
takes off dirt and discolorations from buildings of brick 
and stone. It removes rust and scale from tubes, tanks, 
and boilers, so as greatly to promote their efficiency. It 
cleanses the exteriors of boats and ships so as to quicken 
their pace through water. Not only iron, but glass, takes 
a firmer grasp of paint when subjected for a moment to 
a sand stream. The same simple agent refaces wheels of 
emery and corundum, and then mildly granulates the cel- 
luloid films for cameras. Delivered upon wood, it brings 
out its grain with a relief and beauty denied to any other 
method. It may yet replace chisels as wielded in stone- 
carving and sculpture. 

In manufacturing tanks, reservoirs, and boilers to be used 
under high pressures, only perfect joints are permissible. 
In the production of such joints, the sand blast has im- 
mense value. It takes off every particle of scale before 
riveting begins, so that two applied surfaces of iron or 
steel may be in the closest possible contact. In ordinary 
practice rust and dirt may separate these surfaces, so that 
leaks follow upon extreme pressures, to be cured only by 
excessive and harmful calking. A sand blast, in like 
manner, prepares steel rails and girders for welding, so as 
to insure perfect union. But it is in foundries that a 


sand blast finds its widest utility. A time-honored method 
of producing a clean surface on an iron or steel casting 
is by immersion in an acid bath. This may weaken the 
metal as much as seven per cent. Furthermore, a casting 
thus treated must be laid aside to dry for a day or two be- 
fore it can be used. A sand blast does not impair the 
strength of a casting one whit, and leaves it not only clean, 
but dry, so that it may be used immediately. An operator 
wielding a sand blast consuming, every minute, 120 cubic 
feet of air, compressed to 60 pounds per square inch, will 
clean as many castings, and remove as many cores, as six 
men with chisels, hammers, and brushes. And the blast 
will leave a finish on its work that manual labor cannot 
approach. When such a casting goes to a milling cutter, or 
other machine tool, a further saving ensues from the absence 
of all resisting scale and rust. At Sheffield, where a blast 
was directed upon armor plate, it proceeded at one square 
foot per minute, its chilled iron sand being flung at 20 
pounds pressure per square inch. 

As to this iron sand a word may be said. It is derived 
from just such shot as General Tilghman manufactured at 
the outset of his career. It is made up of minute spheroidal 
pellets of hard, chilled iron, produced by letting molten 
metal fall through fine holes in a plate of fire clay. Below 
this colander, in an atmosphere deprived of oxygen, the 
drops are atomized by jets of superheated steam. The red- 
hot globules then fall into the water, which chills them into 
intense hardness. When cool, they are sifted into sizes 
which vary from 1-40,000 to 1-16 of an inch in diameter. 
This iron sand cuts stone better than does common sand or 
emery. When granite is cut with a chisel and mallet, the 
stone is apt to be bruised or fractured beyond the line of 
cutting, so that, after a hand dressing, there may be one- 
sixth to one-fourth of an inch to grind away. This waste 
and loss are wholly avoided by using a sand blast. 


Sand in water does work which dry sand cannot do. 
When, for example, globes and shades for lamps are to 
be treated, sand and water, duly mixed, yield effects much 
more delicate than are otherwise feasible. Usually the sand 
is mingled with three times its weight of water, the mixture 
being thoroughly stirred, and cast as a quick jet against the 
glass, which is rotated in a suitable holder. A seven-inch 
globe is well ground in thirty seconds. This excellent plan 
was anticipated as far back as 1846 by George Escol Sellers, 
at the factory of Miles Greenwood, in Cincinnati, where he 
built a machine to scour pots and kettles with sand and 
water. After the surfaces were thus scoured they passed 
into a zinc chloride solution, and thence into molten metal 
for their final surfacing. For some unknown reason this 
ingenious plan was discontinued without having been 
patented, or in any way made public. In 1871, twenty-five 
years later, in commenting upon the sand blast, Coleman 
Sellers, of Philadelphia, drew attention to his brother's old 
and discarded mixture of sand and water, which, indeed, 
may have been exemplified by many a housewife as she 
cleansed her kitchen ware with sand from a neighboring 

Whether a sand blast be wet or dry, it is an excellent aid 
in finishing files and rasps as first manufactured, or in re- 
storing their points after wear. The old method of re- 
newal was to grind out the remains of the teeth, recut and 
reharden their points, entailing a good deal of cost and 
trouble, while reducing the thickness of every blank. A 
worn-down file is quickly resharpened when slowly drawn 
several times from tang to point between two convergent 
streams of fine sand, striking the metal at 90 degrees. For 
this work the best sand is that which has been used to grind 
plate glass. Two or three minutes' exposure will resharpen 
a 14-inch rough file. Second-cut or smooth files are treated 
even more rapidly. It is amazing to pick up an old file, 


so dull as to be almost worthless, and find that a sand blast 
restores its keenness in a few seconds. And a new file is 
improved when held under a sand blast, especially if its teeth 
curl over slightly. Repeated tests have proved that files 
thus treated have been increased in their cutting quality as 
much as one-eighth on both steel and cast iron, and on gun 
metal almost double. Many manufacturers subject all their 
files to sand blasts at frequent intervals, so as to keep them 
up to the highest notch of efficiency, by preventing their 
teeth from flattening down. 

Tools of great importance, and exposed to severe strains, 
are the cutters of milling machines. In an approved 
method of production they are hardened and tempered in 
the usual manner, then dipped in oil, and finally sandblasted. 
If there has been any overheating in the furnace, though 
not enough to do apparent harm, says Mr. J. V. Wood- 
worth, cracks will appear on the surfaces of the teeth. 
These cracks, which are best seen immediately after sand- 
blasting, are frequently so small that they cannot be detected 
by ordinary means. 

To clean castings is one of the principal uses of the sand 
blast. Here a capital aid was devised by Mr. J. E. Mathew- 
son, a tumbling barrel in which the castings are placed, 
with apertures through each axis for a sand blast. Through 
its perforated sides the abraded powders slowly drop. As 
the barrel turns but thrice in a minute, no harm befalls its 

Much more stubborn than rust or scale on a casting are 
the layers of paint successively laid upon a ship. Yet even 
these disappear under a prolonged attack from a heavy 
sand blast. The steamship Austrian, of the Allan Line, 
had, 'tween decks, coat upon coat of sea paint, until it 
stood not less than one-eighth of an inch thick. It was re- 
moved down to the bright metal, at the rate of 12 square 


feet per hour, by applying 60 cubic feet of sand-laden air 
per minute, compressed to 50 pounds per square inch. A 
reservoir holding 15 cubic feet supplied a nozzle 7-16 of 
an inch in diameter. In angles and around bolts the re- 
moval of paint was absolute, a feat impossible to ham- 
mers, chisels, and scrapers. If paint can be detached by 
an air blast carrying sand, an air blast laden with paint 
far outspeeds brush work. A simple Redman spraying 
machine was thus employed to paint the buildings of the 
Columbian Exposition at Chicago, in 1893. It covered 300 
square feet per hoijr, and drove its pigment deeply into the 
walls and ceilings. 

While always exploring new territory for the sand blast, 
General Tilghman felt a keen interest in the new weapons 
of war, especially in the torpedoes constantly being designed 
and tested. In association with his brother, he planned a 
torpedo to be propelled rocket fashion, by a slow-burning 
powder. For its excursions they sank on their grounds a 
trough 80 feet long, which they filled with water. They 
found it impossible to avoid premature explosions of the 
powder, so that repeatedly their models were suddenly 
burst into splinters, which crashed into the surrounding 
walls and rafters. General Tilghman, inured as he had 
been to shot and shell in actual warfare, bore these explo- 
sions with equanimity. His nephew and assistant, Benja- 
min C. Tilghman, II., had never been a soldier, so that 
at first he displayed much agility as he dodged the flying 
missiles. It was a good while before he came to his 
uncle's indifference to unlooked for bombardments. He 
was heartily glad when these experiments, acknowledged 
to be a failure, were abandoned for good and all. 

Thus closed the active work of General Tilghman. As 
he approached his eightieth year his step became halting 
and his pulse feeble. In February, 1901, he was stricken 


by paralysis ; five months later, on July 3d, he passed away 
at his residence, 1114 Girard Street. He was unmarried. 
The establishment which he founded, and where his sci- 
entific library is preserved, flourishes, as during his lifetime, 
at 1126 South Eleventh Street, Philadelphia. 


ON the morning of October 26, 1872, the steamer Berlin 
from Bremen reached its dock at Locust Point, in Balti- 
more. Its five hundred steerage passengers were mainly 
immigrants bound for the West, with here and there an 
artisan who hoped to earn good wages without going far 
from his landing-place. Among these was a lithe and 
comely young fellow of eighteen, about five feet seven in 
height, his large, well-shaped head firmly set on broad 
shoulders. As he strides up-town he turns his calm blue 
eyes with wonder on the traffic that impedes him at every 
step. In a round-topped wooden trunk he brings a good 
stock of clothes for the approaching winter, and thirty 
dollars in cash. More important still is the silver watch 
in his vest pocket. He has adjusted its movement daily 
during the voyage, so that it is now as accurate as the 
ship's own chronometer. Indeed, our young German could, 
at a pinch, make such a watch if he liked, for it is as a 
watchmaker that he registered himself on the Berlin. It 
is this skill in watchmaking that assures Ottmar Mergen- 
thaler that he will devise the best machine to supplant the 
compositor. To-day in America four out of five automatic 
typesetters are linotypes created by this German immigrant, 
who thus stands beside his compatriot, John Gutenberg, in 
transfiguring the printer's art. One of these great inventors 
devised types to be moved by hand; the second superseded 
these types by matrices moved by a keyboard fourfold as 

To realize the vast stride due to Ottmar Mergenthaler, 
let us watch an old-time compositor at his wooden case. 
Before him are 150 compartments or so, varying in size, 



each filled with a particular letter of the alphabet, large or 
small, a numeral, a punctuation mark, or other character. 
In his left hand is a " stick," a flat metal receiver for his 
type. Its length is regulated by a central slide fastened 
by a screw. As he sets " America," let us say, he picks up 
the letters, A-m-e-r-i-c-a, one after another. Next to this 
word he places a printer's " space " ; this is a thin piece 
of metal, not so high as type, so that, while it separates 
words from one another, it receives no ink in the printing- 
press. As our compositor comes near the end of his line, 
he takes account of a fact on which turned the chief ob- 
stacle to setting type by machinery. His types vary much 
in breadth : " m " is twice as wide as " n " ; " w " is twice 
as wide as " i." More than this. Every line of type must 
end with a word, a syllable, a numeral, or a punctuation 
mark. Words vary much more than letters in the spaces 
they occupy: "a" is a word, and so is "strength," with 
eight letters in its one syllable. Suppose that a compositor 
has room for only two " m " letters at the end of a line, 
and that " strength " is the next word he has to set. What 
is he to .do ? He must space out his words with " quads " 
until his line is full, leaving " strength " for his next line. 
This task of completing, or justifying, each line requires 
judgment and skill; it consumes quite one-sixth of a type- 
setter's day. Again and again did inventors try in vain to 
perform justification by mechanical means. They devised 
types with corrugations, or with hollow spaces, so as to be 
squeezed together at the end of a line. They adopted 
wedges, only to create bulges which refused to subside. 
They employed rubber, only to find it cause insufferable an- 
noyance. How justification was at last accomplished we 
shall duly see; that feat it was which loosened the grasp 
that typesetters had for four centuries maintained on their 
art. And what was a typesetter's pace when quick both of 
eye and touch? He could set in an hour 1,000 " ems " or 


breadths of the letter " m," which serves as the compositor's 
unit: this was equal to about 350 words. But an old-time 
compositor did more than merely compose. When his col- 
umns or pages had been duly printed from in a press, he 
had to distribute his types; that is, he had to return each 
type to its proper compartment in his wooden case, there to 
await the next task of composition. To distribute types 
demanded about one-fourth as much time as to compose. 
An error here, of course, led to an error in composition, as 
when " u " appeared instead of " n." 

From this setter of type, obliged to stand all day at his 
case, we pass to an operator comfortably seated at a Mer- 
genthaler linotype. Before him is spread a keyboard of 
ninety characters, much easier to his touch than those of a 
typewriter. Each key controls the descent of a matrix, a 
slender bar of metal in which is sunk a character to serve 
as a mold. To set " America " he lightly presses the key 
marked " A " ; it sets free a matrix " A " from its box in 
a large magazine of similar matrices. This " A," in full 
view, glides to an assembling space which supplants the old- 
fashioned stick. Next the keys for m-e-r-i-c-a are lowered, 
so that in a moment " America " is composed. At the end 
of that word and of every other, the operator touches a 
key which inserts a spaceband. How this device serves 
much better than a space we shall presently understand. As 
ur operator approaches the end of a line he must exercise 
judgment, much as if he were setting type with his fingers. 
It will not do for him to begin to compose " strength," for 
example, when only two " em " spaces remain vacant before 
him. At the proper point he decides that he has matrices 
enough for a line, and that instant he moves a lever which 
effects justification; how this marvel is wrought will be- 
come clear as we proceed. When the line of type is justi- 
fied, it is automatically carried to a mold where liquid type- 
metal is forced against the matrices and spacebands, much 



as when types are cast at a foundry. But instead of a single 
character as " a " or " o " being cast, we have here a line 


of words ready to be printed. This " slug," as it is called, 
in a moment is hard and cool enough to pass to a tray, 


where other slugs are swiftly added, so as to form a page 
or a column for the printing press. These slugs present 
fresh faces to the printed paper, and may be left standing 


at but nominal cost for interest. A set of matrices often 
replaces a font of type weighing two hundred times as 


What about distribution, a task which seems to ask for 
uncommon accuracy of touch and vision, with a faultless 


memory? This difficult feat is intrusted to a section of 
the machine which returns matrices to their boxes as quickly 
as 270 per minute, and unerringly, unless a matrix is bent 



by accident, or becomes injured by prolonged use or undue 
exposure to molten metal. This wonderful linotype, there- 
fore, requires of an operator nothing beyond the touching 


of keys through which he produces a page or a column in 
beautiful new type, with perfect justification, and with all 
the drudgery of distribution at an end. Can Initiative go 
further than this? Are not inventors right when they 
hold that every task of the human hand, however delicate 



and difficult, may be committed to quicker and stronger 
fingers of steel and brass? 

John Gutenberg, before he invented movable types, was a 
cutter of gems and a framer of mirrors. In these handi- 
crafts he came to a daintiness of touch and an exactness 
of eye which prepared him to cut type-molds with strict 
uniformity. Upon that uniformity turned his revolution of 
the art of typography. Mergenthaler, who was to recreate 



the art of Gutenberg, never learned the compositor's trade. 
It was as a watchmaker that he came to precision in meas- 
urement, to the utmost nicety in tempering a spring, or in 
blending the ingredients of an alloy. As a lad he was 
trained to cut teeth and pinions with unfailing accuracy, to 
drill jewels with a steady and even pressure. He saw 
that if a watch is to be accurate, its mechanism must be 
considered as a whole. Every new addition must har- 


monize with all the other parts to form a unit which is at 
once refined and intricate. Often the chronometers which 
came into his hands were highly complex in their design. 
Some of them, on the release of a detent, rang out the 
hours and the minutes. Others exhibited the phases of 
the moon, or every successive constellation of the north- 
ern heavens throughout a twelvemonth. In those days of 
hand-made watches there was an instructive diversity in 
their escapement and fusees, their devices for neutralizing 
the effects of varying temperatures, all with golden hints 
for the fertile brain of young Mergenthaler. Wearers of 
watches may wholly lack dexterity or mechanical knowledge, 
but they can always tell whether their time-pieces are right 
or wrong. And a watchmaker thrives only as he skilfully 
serves these unrelenting critics. Let us remember, too, that 
Germany is dotted with tower-clocks of rare ingenuity. 
Often they chime elaborate tunes as the hours succeed each 
other. At Strasburg the great clock of the cathedral in its 
elaborate mechanism surpasses every other time-piece in 
Europe. A globe displays the courses of the stars, and 
above this appears the path of the moon. As noon ap- 
proaches, an angel strikes ttye quarters on a bell in his 
hand; higher up, a skeleton, representing Time, strikes 
twelve. Surrounding figures strike the other quarters, 
showing the progress of a man through boyhood, youth, 
manhood, and old age. Under the first gallery, the symbolic 
deity of the day steps forth, Apollo on Sunday, Diana on 
Monday, and so on. In the uppermost niche the twelve 
apostles move around a figure of the Redeemer, bowing 
in homage as they pass. On a pinnacle is perched a cock, 
which flaps its wings, stretches its neck, and crows, awaken- 
ing echoes from the remotest arches of the cathedral. 
Schwilgue, who built this clock, Vaucanson, who con- 
structed automata of ingenuity quite as marvelous, con- 
tributed not a little to the advancement of invention. They 


endowed cams with new forms adapted to wholly new 
tasks. They took, of necessity, noteworthy strides in the 
art of timing, an art which to-day plays a leading part in 
engines, looms, and much other machinery, and notably in 
the linotype. 

Germany, the fatherland of John Gutenberg, gave Ottmar 
Mergenthaler to the world. He was born on May 10, 1854, 
in Bietigheim, a quaint and picturesque town of four thou- 
sand inhabitants, about twenty miles north of Stuttgart. 
His father, John George Mergenthaler, was a teacher; his 
mother, Rosina Ackerman, came of a family which for 
generations had been of the teaching guild. Ottmar, the 
third of their five children, was instructed at his father's 
school, where, happily, his lessons included music, to give 
him cheer and solace as long as he lived. At home he did 
not eat the bread of idleness. He helped to cook meals, 
wash dishes, build fires in winter, and till the garden in the 
summer ; one of his tasks the year round was to feed the 
pigs and cattle, which contributed to the family larder. 
" It was all work and no play," wrote the inventor many 
years afterward, " yet the boy submitted willingly to al- 
most any imposition, for he had been accustomed to it 
from childhood and knew no better." He continues : 

" In this way time elapsed until he arrived at fourteen, 
when he was to leave school to receive his training as a 
teacher. As the time drew near he gave much thought to 
the subject of his future and the profession his parents had 
chosen for him. ' Would I like to be a teacher ? ' he asked 
himself. ' No,' was his answer ; ' why should I ? ' In his 
father's case he had seen nothing but a very small salary 
with no prospect whatever of further advancement. He 
had seen his father subjected to many vexations on the part 
of the State Inspectors of schools. The boy became clear 
in his mind that he did not want to be a teacher, but what 
calling should he choose? His father diligently inquired 
as to the chances of success offered by the various higher 


trades, as also did the parson of the village, who took a 
warm interest in what he considered a very promising boy. 
But the responses were not encouraging. The cabinet- 
maker thought his business ruined by the competition of the 
big factories, but said that the carpenter still made a fair 
living. The carpenter, in his turn, took a gloomy view 
of his trade, and thought that the locksmith and gunsmith 
had the best outlook ; these, when questioned, believed the 
machinist to be the man of the future, and so throughout 
the circle, until the boy and his friends concluded that they 
must choose among evils, and that the path to be taken was 
that for which the lad had the best talent. He had for 
years successfully handled the rather rebellious village 
clock, he had kept several other clocks in repair, he had cut 
many models of animals out of wood with his penknife, and 
a general handiness with tools gave him an idea that ma- 
chinery was what attracted him most. His special desire 
was to become a maker of mathematical instruments, but the 
cost of an apprenticeship to that trade was beyond his 
father's purse, and, besides, his education was deficient. A 
college course, he was told, was needed by anybody who 
aspired to be more than a mere workman. At last the boy 
compromised between what he wanted and what he could 
get, by becoming an apprentice to the brother of his step- 
mother, a maker of watches and clocks in Bietigheim. He 
was to serve four years without wages, pay a small premium, 
furnish all his own tools, and receive board and lodging 
from this uncle, Mr. Hahl. 

" In May, 1868, he began work, and soon found himself 
at home in his new surroundings. A pleasant and kindly 
spirit pervaded the home of the Hahls, and while the hours 
of labor were long, they gave opportunity for advancement 
in learning and for recreation. Hahl usually employed six 
or eight young men, some as apprentices, others as journey- 
men. In their cheery company work was a pleasure, and 
four years passed swiftly and gainfully. Young Mergen- 
thaler applied himself to mastering the intricacies of his 
trade, with energy and enthusiasm. With a rare mechan- 
ical talent he combined skill, which brought him to profi- 
ciency in every branch of the business almost without in- 
struction, and with a minimum of opportunity for practice. 
So well did he succeed that his uncle felt constrained to 


pay him his wages for a year before his> apprenticeship ex- 
pired. For this liberality Hahl had never had occasion but 
this once in a business career of more than thirty years. 

" Meanwhile the young man tried to advance himself by 
taking advantage of the neighboring night-schools and Sun- 
day-schools, conducted for the special benefit of young men 
learning a trade or business. Here he received his first 
start in mechanical drawing, which later on assisted him so 
much, particularly in the drafting of his inventions and 
designs, an advantage over many other inventors which can 
hardly be overrated. In the summer of 1872, his ap- 
prenticeship having expired, the young man commenced to 
look around for an opportunity to turn his acquirements to 
better account than was possible in the small town where 
he had learned his trade. The Franco-German war had 
closed shortly before this period, and the vast army of Ger- 
many had returned home and been disbanded. The work- 
men thus set free poured into every avenue of business, 
and in most cases, as a mark of sympathy and as a just 
reward, they displaced men who had not gone to the front 
in the service of the Fatherland. To make matters worse, 
there were no longer any large army contracts to maintain 
the activity of nearly every field of manufacture. Every- 
thing industrial was being readjusted, and heightened taxes, 
increased military duties, and decreased opportunities for 
wage-earners, created widespread dissatisfaction, especially 
in Southern Germany, where the people seriously objected 
to the yoke of Prussian militarism. Thousands of young 
men left their homes to avoid military service, and young 
Mergenthaler was caught in the general discontent, and con- 
cluded to emigrate, if possible. Already his two elder 
brothers had been drafted into the army, and it was high 
time for him to act if he was to get away at all. In this 
dilemma he applied for aid to August Hahl, a son of his 
uncle and employer, who was established as a maker of 
electrical instruments in the city of Washington, asking 
for the loan of passage money, to be worked out when he 
reached the factory. The cash was promptly forwarded, 
and young Mergenthaler, when he landed in Baltimore in 
October, 1872, at once proceeded to the Hahl shop in Wash- 

" He began work forthwith at fair wages. Electrical in- 


struments were new to him, but soon he was as efficient as 
any of his fellow-workmen; and within two years he took 
the leading place in the shop, acting as foreman, and when- 
ever Mr. Hahl was absent, as business manager. Besides 
the manufacture of electrical clocks and bells, his tasks were 
chiefly in executing instruments for the United States 
Signal Service. This Service had been but recently estab- 
lished, and several of its officers were then devising its 
heliographs, gages for rain and snow, registers for wind 
velocities, and the like. Nearly all experimental work, and 
many of the standard instruments, as finally adopted, were 
carried out at the Hahl shop, usually by Mergenthaler. It 
was work that he liked, and for which he developed a par- 
ticular aptitude, both in skill and ease of execution. He 
readily grasped an inventor's ideas, and improved upon 
them where he perceived that improvement was possible. 
Washington was at that time the focus for important inven- 
tions, originated not only in the United States, but through- 
out the world. The law then required that a model should 
accompany every application for a patent, and as these 
models were, as a rule, built in Washington, many model- 
makers in that city were kept busy the year round. Mer- 
genthaler thus came into daily contact with inventors from 
far and near, and inventions furnished the staple of his 
thought and conversation. In such surroundings the young 
man could hardly fail to unfold his own inventive talent, and 
long before he was of age he left the impress of his in- 
genuity on many a machine and instrument. 

" In the autumn of 1873 occurred the memorable financial 
panic ushered in by the bankruptcy of Jay Cooke & Com- 
pany. Business in Washington fell into utter stagnation, 
involving the Hahl shop with every other in the city. Its 
employees shrank in number until a mere remnant re- 
mained, which, fortunately, included Mergenthaler. Hahl 
attributed the shrinkage of his business solely to Washing- 
ton as a place, deeming that Baltimore would afford him a 
much larger circle of customers. Against Mergenthaler's 
advice, to Baltimore the Hahl shop was removed, but the 
expected improvement in business failed to appear. For 
a little while the shop was busy in providing signal instru- 
ments, to be used at the Centennial Exhibition, in Phila- 
delphia. When these were finished, there was almost 


nothing to do. Hahl was in a sorry plight, in debt as he 
was to his hands for hundreds of dollars in wages." 

At this point of depression in the fortunes of young Mer- 
genthaler let us interrupt his story as we listen to a 
warm personal friend of his, Henry Thomas, now of Balti- 
more : " Those formative years in Washington, Mergen- 
thaler was wont to regard as the happiest of his life. He 
was one of a coterie of young Germans who lived together, 
sang together, and often took long walks together. Early 
on Sundays we were wont to stroll to Great Falls or Chain 
Bridge, halting at the farmhouse of a German friend. At 
his hospitable board we refreshed ourselves with clabber, 
potatoes in uniform, black bread, and beer in moderation. 
Ottmar, reserved and almost silent with strangers, always 
let himself go in our company. He was a generous com- 
rade, complying and kind, no spoil-sport. His voice, a fine 
barytone, was often heard in a repertory of German songs 
and ballads. In those days his health was vigorous and his 
step elastic. He gave promise of being hale and hearty at 
fourscore. We were all ambitious, but he brought it 
farther than any one of us all." 

To resume Mergenthaler's own story : 

" One day early in August, 1876, we find Hahl at his of- 
fice, 13 Mercer Street, Baltimore, in conversation with Mr. 
Charles T. Moore, of White Sulphur Springs, Virginia. 
Mr. Moore was the inventor of what he called a ' writing 
machine/ Its failure he attributed to defective workman- 
ship. As his financial sponsors he named James O. Cle- 
phane, Louis Clephane, Maurice Pechin, and J. H. Cross- 
man, all of Washington. Hahl the next day went to Wash- 
ington to secure, if possible, the task of reconstructing this 
machine. He found the backers of Mr. Moore discour- 
aged and unwilling to advance any more cash unless a 
satisfactory result was guaranteed. ' No result, no 
money,' was their verdict. Mergenthaler in the meantime 
had thoroughly examined the machine, and found that, 


while its workmanship was faulty, yet this was less a 
cause of failure than errors of design. He gave the 
project serious thought, and, after a few days, saw his way 
clear to remodeling the machine so as to overcome some 
of its defects and at the same time simplify it greatly. He 
so informed Hahl, and advised him to undertake the re- 
construction at his own risk, as the result, in his opinion, 
was beyond doubt, provided that he should be free to make 
such changes as he pleased, and that the compensation 
should be just. This suggestion went into effect, Hahl guar- 
anteeing that a reconstructed machine should make its let- 
ters, including the widest and narrowest, print clear and 
sharp on a page, each letter duly spaced, so as to produce 
the effect of printing from regular type. In case of suc- 
cess, $1,600 was to be received by Hahl; in the event of 
failure, he was to be paid nothing." 

On these terms the machine was taken in hand. In its 
original form it bore upon the successive circles of a cylin- 
der the characters to be printed. By manipulating keys 
while this cylinder revolved, its characters were printed in 
lithographic ink on a paper strip. This strip was then cut 
into lengths of a line each, justified by the due separation 
of words and syllables, and then transferred to a litho- 
graphic stone for printing.* 

Crude though this machine was, in Washington, Chi- 
cago, and New York it had printed copies of legislative 
proceedings, court testimony, and other documents. When 
Hahl handed this apparatus to Mergenthaler to be over- 
hauled and improved, in that simple act he gave the in- 
ventor his first impulse toward supplanting the ancient art 
of typesetting, and ushered in the dawn of a new and 

*Had Moore used lithographic ink directly on a typewriter, he 
would have easily won success, always barring the task of justifica- 
tion, with which indeed he might have dispensed, as in all the type- 
writers of to-day. At present a stencil plate, readily cut in wax on 
a standard typewriter, enables an operator to print with ink 2,000 or 
more impressions from an ordinary typewritten sheet. 



memorable era. A model, incorporating Mergenthalers 
improvements, performed all that was desired. He was 


2 ~ 

the war?| A. Near|la thousand!! acres. I 


nwnpH H a l| myself J P 

4 ~ 

p-0. How ' " ^ 

jp ^^ 




Charles T. Moore. Patented March 19, 1878. 

then commissioned to build a machine of full size; this he 
finished during the summer of 1877. An ordinary stock 


ticker of to-day has one wheel for letters, another for figures. 
Mergenthaler paralleled this feature : his keys in their usual 
descent struck Roman characters; a shift-key,. like that of 
a typewriter, caused italics to appear. From both wheels 
the type imprinted itself sharply : but this, after all, was 
only a threshold achievement. When reproduction was at- 
tempted, there was disappointment. The stone here and 
there refused to absorb the finer lines of the imposed script. 
Too much or too little ink might be delivered from the 
printing-press, so that blotches presented themselves along- 
side spaces utterly bare. Not seldom the paper became 
stained with oil as it ran past the printing cylinder. Worst 
of all: the inevitable slowness of lithographic printing 
wholly forbade success. In truth, the scheme was puerile, 
and no inventor, however resourceful, could make anything 
of it. 

James O. Clephane, who had originally suggested this 
machine to Moore, saw at last that the difficulties of lithog- 
raphy were insurmountable. He proposed that stereotypy 
be resorted to instead. The typewriter, in which he felt a 
keen interest both as an inventor and a promoter, had re- 
cently demonstrated its success; he proposed that a type- 
writer should impress its characters on a strip of papier 
mache, from which, as a matrix, a stereotype should be 
produced. Mergenthaler up to this time had never seen a 
stereotype, and knew nothing of its manufacture. A sur- 
vey of the process in a printing office nearby made him 
skeptical as to Clephane's plan, so he said : " Don't hold me 
responsible for results." Clephane responded : " Give me 
an impression machine and I will attend to the rest." By 
the end of 1878 Mergenthaler built for Clephane a machine 
which clearly impressed on papier mache letters and words 
duly spaced. But joy at the neatness of this work gave 
place to dejection when this matrix, forty lines in length, 
was covered with molten type metal. This metal penetrated 


every joint, crack, and pore of the papier mache so thor- 
oughly that to separate mold and metal was hardly feasible. 
Amid many failures, good castings occasionally appeared. 
These were diligently cleared of burrs. The paper clinging 
to their surfaces was removed by pens, brushes, and acids. 
Hours might be spent in making presentable a single page. 
And there was usually a provoking displacement of material 
toward the right side of each character. Another beset- 
ment arose from having to keep the paper wet during print- 
ing. Mergenthaler patiently overcame these obstacles one 
by one, and brought the process to a point where success 
seemed near. But success was never close enough to be 
grasped. Many inventors have essayed this task of design- 
ing an impression machine, only to waste their time as 
Mergenthaler did. He finally became convinced that this 
phase of stereotypy was impracticable, and told his em- 
ployers so. Their hopes, nevertheless, were unquenchable. 
For five years thereafter they kept on stereotyping in a 
shop of their own in Washington, only to reach at last the 
conclusion that their endeavor was wholly futile. 

As Clephane and his friends discussed their experiments, 
they felt that, while they had followed a wrong track, their 
aim was well worthy of renewed pursuit. And who was 
more competent for that pursuit than the young Baltimore 
machinist? Accordingly in January, 1883, they engaged 
him to take up as a whole the problem of devising a machine 
to supersede typesetting. As Mergenthaler reconsidered 
the subject, he was certain that he must exclude the annoy- 
ances of the papier mache method as at first adopted. To 
avoid the bulges which arose as one letter after another was 
impressed upon its surface, he planned to imprint a matrix 
LINE BY LINE, each line being justified as a unit. This 
project he had outlined in a drawing toward the close of 
1879. Just then his treasury was absolutely empty, and in 
a fit of rage he had torn his sketch into ribbons. There 


was now the prospect of funds adequate to the experiments 
proposed. Clephane had at this time interested in his 
plans Lemon G. Hine, a leading lawyer of Washington, 
one of the commissioners who ruled the city, a man of abil- 
ity and character, and withal a born diplomatist. He 
brought not only capital to the enterprise, but energy and 
dash. The associates now opened a printing office in com- 
modious quarters at Seventh Street and Louisiana Avenue, 
where soon they had seven rotary machines at work. New 
paging and other auxiliaries were installed, and the staff of 
operators was considerably augmented. Everything pos- 
sible to insure success seemed to be present, and yet the 
only issue was failure. 

For a moment let us return to the personal annals of Mer- 
genthaler in Baltimore. In 1881 he married Emma Lachen- 
mayer, to which union four sons and a daughter were born. 
On New Year's Day, 1883, he dissolved a partnership with 
Hahl which had existed for two years, and began business 
for himself in Bank Lane. There he immediately took in 
hand the revised plans of his friends in Washington. Hine, 
who assumed all outlays, requested Mergenthaler to pro- 
ceed at once with his improved design: he began forthwith 
to construct an experimental model which should print 
twelve letters at a time. It was built in a hurry and creaked 
with defects; yet it demonstrated a principle distinctly 
superior to that of the preceding machine. This new de- 
sign, expanded to a working scale, was tested in the fall of 
1883, with an encouraging measure of success. A per- 
sistent difficulty lay in the task of drying the -matrix. In 
ordinary stereotypy the matrix is dried while still on the 
type. Mergenthaler had to strip off his matrix while wet, 
and dry it afterward, because production was too rapid to 
allow a matrix to remain long enough on the type to have 
its moisture driven off by heat. This impediment brought 
our inventor to a decisive turning-point. He now plainly 


saw that papier mache was unsuitable for his work, and 
must be discarded. He took a leaf out of the practice of 
typefounders, and proceeded to cast from his matrices in 
fluid type metal. The experience of four centuries had 
shown that molten type metal thus cast solidifies almost in- 
stantly, without adhering to its mold. In this returning 
step he dismissed for good and all the trouble with protrud- 
ing papier mache, and the necessity for driving off moisture 
from a mixture of water and pulp. 

But even with his new resource of casting from metal, 
the inventor's path was still thorny. As his plans first crys- 
tallized in his mind, he required as an outfit no fewer than 
4,500 matrices, such as then cost two dollars each. And 
where was he to find $9,000 for their purchase ? For weeks 
this perplexed his brain. While regarding this difficulty 
from every point of view, he was called to Washington to 
consult Clephane and Hine. On board the train there 
flashed across his mind: Why have separate matrices at 
all ; why not stamp matrices into typebars and cast metal 
into them in one and the same machine ? Here was his first 
unification of composing and casting, an idea which glowed 
more and more brightly with promise as he dwelt upon it. 
He felt sure that type metal would solidify fast enough to 
permit a quick working of the mechanism he now imagined. 
He was certain that good and cheap matrices could be 
punched into type metal, and each line readily justified by 
springs. On reaching Washington, Mergenthaler sought to 
persuade his friends to adopt his new and audacious plan. 
They were at first reluctant. Why had an idea so obvious 
not been carried out long before? At last they yielded to 
the inventor's arguments, and bade him embody his novel 
design in two machines. 

These bar-indenting machines carried a series of metal 
bars, bearing upon their edges printing characters in relief, 
the bars being provided with springs for justification. The 


papier mache matrix lines resulting from pressure against 
the characters were secured upon a backing sheet, over 
which was laid a gridiron frame containing a series of slots, 
into which type metal was poured by hand to form slugs 
bearing the characters from which to print. These ma- 
chines were promptly succeeded by a machine which cast its 
slugs automatically from the matrix sheets, one line at a 
time. As these machines followed one another, their 
creator rose to new heights of skill and outlook. He was 
soon designing a band machine which distinctly surpassed 
its predecessors. In this model the characters required for 
printing were indented in the edges of a series of narrow 
brass bands, each band containing a full alphabet, and hang- 
ing with its spacers, side by side with other bands in the 
machine. Each band tapered in thickness from top to bot- 
tom. By touching a keyboard the bands dropped suc- 
cessively, bringing the characters required into line at a 
desired point. A casting mechanism was then brought 
into contact with this line of characters, and molten metal 
was forced through a mold of proper dimensions, forming a 
slug with a perfect printing surface. 

The first of these machines, whose creation opened a new 
chapter in the mechanism of typography, was ready to be 
tested early in January, 1884, and a day was appointed when 
a few friends might behold the linotype at work. A dozen 
spectators were numerous enough to fill the little shop in 
Bank Lane. They came half an hour too soon, so that the 
inventor, in their presence, deftly gave his cams and molds 
their finishing touches. At last all was completed, and Ott- 
mar Mergenthaler stood before his keyboard as calm and 
collected as at any time for eight years past. He com- 
posed a line on the keys, then turned the driving pulley by 
hand, observing closely every pulse of the mechanism until 
it had finished a cycle and come to a full stop. All moved 
easily and with precision. The inventor now asked that 



steam power be connected. This was done. He composed 
a second line, removed the stopper from the metal pump, 
and touched the line key. Smoothly and silently the matrices 
slid into their places, were clamped and aligned, and the 
pump discharged its fused metal. A finished LINOTYPE, 
shining like silver, dropped from the machine, the while 
that each matrix, its duty performed, now took its way 
through the distributing mechanism to its own receptacle. 
All was accomplished in fifteen seconds. A scene as worthy 
of monumental commemoration as the first pulling of a 
proof from movable types by John Gutenberg. A few addi- 
tional lines followed at the swift touch of Mergenthaler, 
who then invited Miss Julia Camp, an expert and rapid 
typewriter, to take his place at the keys. Miss Camp had 
for years produced better results than any other operator 
with the lithographic and indenting machines. To-day her 
work at the keyboard of the linotype was as convincing as 
that of the inventor himself. 

How did the mechanism execute the difficult task of 
justification? The operator, with the aid of a scale and 
pointer, could see the length of his line as it grew before 
him. At the proper moment near the end of a line, he duly 
enlarged the spaces betwixt words by striking a space-key 
until his pointer showed the line to be quite full. It was 
soon decided to substitute graduated wedges for this plan. 
These wedges Mergenthaler had borne in view for his first 
band machine of 1883, but their high cost had warned him 
off. In those days of small things, $400 was as much as 
he dared expect a printer to pay for a composing machine, 
and a price so low excluded automatic justification. 

At this period in the history of linotypy, the parties 
financially interested organized themselves as " The Na- 
tional Typographic Company of West Virginia." They 
established a shop at 201 Camden Street, Baltimore, of 
which Mergenthaler was given charge. From Bank Lane 


he brought his tools and machinery, to which the Company 
added with liberality. A contract was now signed by the 
Company, Mergenthaler agreeing that all his inventions, 
past and future, should become the property of the Com- 
pany. On his producing a practical machine he was to re- 
ceive as royalty ten per cent, on the cost of all machines 
manufactured, and a thousand shares of the Company's 
stock. Now followed two years, during which, day by day, 
the inventor improved and simplified his linotype, always 

Patented August u, 1896. 

finding his directors patient and cordial in their support 
as he abandoned good designs for better. Besides his 
amazing faculty as an inventor, Mergenthaler had the per- 
sonality which makes an employer beloved by his hands. 
His men were proud and fond of him. They rendered him 
ungrudging service ; their good will did much to cushion the 
jolts of experimental work with its inevitable hitches, its 
constant balking of the best laid plans. One of his staff at 



that time was William R. Brack, now of New York, who 
declares : " Ottmar Mergenthaler was the ' whitest ' man 
one could work for. He was good to his employees, and 
no matter how humble their station, he had always a kind 
word for them, and a friendly word to say of them. His 
goodness of heart. included dumb animals, horses especially, 
and he would not permit them to be ill-treated. One even- 
ing I was returning home from the linotype factory, and I 
rode in the horsecar with him. At an unpaved crossing the 
driver lost his temper and began to whip his horses un- 
mercifully. Mergenthaler sprang to their rescue, and gave 
the driver such a reprimand as he never heard before. It 
had the desired effect, too. That man never abused his 
horses again." 

Says Charles R. Wagner, of New York, another machin- 
ist, who helped to build the first linotypes : " There never 
was an employer better liked than Mergenthaler. When 
rush orders obliged all hands to work overtime, he would 
walk through the shop and ask us if we had dined. If we 
answered no, he would order dinner from a neighboring 
restaurant to be brought in at once. When Mr. Hine re- 
signed as president of the Company, Mergenthaler gave all 
hands a capital supper at the shop. That night he made a 
telling speech. When he parted from the Linotype Com- 
pany, he bought the old Walker Horseshoe Works at Lo- 
cust Point, Baltimore, where he intended to form a com- 
munity of his work people. At this factory he built 300 
linotypes under contract with the Linotype Company. After 
these machines were finished, he confined his work, so far as 
linotypes were concerned, simply to repairs. But he was 
an inventor through and through, so he had to devise a 
threshing machine, and improve a basket-making machine, 
and contrive much else equally ingenious and original. The 
recreation he enjoyed most was singing. For years he was 
an active member of the Liederkranz of Baltimore, and be- 


came its president. Apart from music, he was a man to 
stay at home. When he traveled in America or Europe, he 
took his family with him. At home or abroad, his friends 
were friends for life." 

Thanks, in no small degree, to the capacity and good will 
of his staff, Mergenthaler, in February, 1885, completed a 
much improved linotype, with an automatic justifier. This, 
in the same month, he exhibited at the Chamberlain Hotel 
in Washington, attracting the attention of printers from all 
parts of the world, as well as of President Arthur and other 
national leaders. A banquet was given in honor of the in- 
ventor to mark his great achievement. He delivered a 
capital speech, in which he reviewed the principal steps of 
his invention, with a forecast of its coming success, since 
more than fulfilled. 

While this latest linotype -was much more effective and 
smooth in working than its immediate forerunners, its in- 
ventor soon divined how he could make a much better ma- 
chine. His matrix bands were not precise in their dimen- 
sions, and if an operator fell into a single error, all that 
preceded that error 'on a line had to be thrown away. An- 
other fault was more serious: as the movements of the 
machine were hidden, the operator could not see what he 
was doing. Mergenthaler felt that he must redesign his 
machine throughout, so as to confer visibility on its mo- 
tions. He intended, also, that his lines of type should afford 
an opportunity to correct an error as work proceeded, just 
as in manual typesetting. 

At this critical stage of his progress our inventor seems 
to have taken a glance at what other inventors were doing, 
as they sought to supplant manual composition. One of 
their noteworthy attempts was to release individual types 
from their several boxes by a keyboard, these types sliding 
together to form a long line, duly divided into short lines 
and justified by a second operator. This may have 


prompted the next idea which arose in Mergenthalers mind, 
the adoption of single matrices, instead of bands, each 
impressed with all the characters of a font. This new 
project he sketched in a few masterly strokes, and showed 
to Clephane, Hine, and his other financial backers. It was a 
recurrent shock to these men that Good was constantly 
ousted by Better, only to have Better make way for Better 
Still, with Best ever below the horizon. 

" As if machinery were invented 
For only this to be amended." 

Mergenthaler's present design was wholly new from base 
to crest, and new machines had become odious to the men 
who had to pay for them. When were experiments to end, 
so that dividends might begin? Hine, the faithful friend 
of Mergenthaler, said : " Not many stockholders can stand 
being told that they have the best machine in the world, 
but that they should make another still better." These men 
were not conducting a bureau of mechanical research, but a 
machine shop meant to earn and pay a profit as soon as pos- 
sible. In truth, Mergenthaler, in the successive phases of 
his linotype, realized advances which usually require suc- 
cessive generations of inventors, or a cohort of designers 
banded for attack by a powerful syndicate or trust. On 
this occasion Mergenthaler's fellow share-holders were pa- 
tient once again, acknowledging that if his latest model 
were practicable, it would be well worth its cost in dollars 
and delay. 

Mergenthaler, thus indorsed, now devoted his days and 
nights to developing his single-matrix machine. Its details 
were immeasurably more troublesome than those of any 
earlier linotype, rising, as they did, to a new and higher 
plane of invention. A cathedral clock, such as that we 
have noticed at Strasburg, has thousands of parts which 


present a simple drama as its hours are ticked off, demand- 
ing in its constructor rare ingenuity. But, after all, its 
labyrinth of wheels and pinions, levers and cams, are bound 
together rigidly, and must move onward with inevitable 
precision when once the weights are wound up, and every 
working surface is clean and bright. But Mergenthaler 
had for the essential parts of his linotype a procession of 
matrices at times rigidly held in their mechanism, at other 
times wholly free as they moved from their magazines, and 
were freely restored to those magazines for their next ex- 
cursion. There must be no sticking at any point, from 
undue friction or other cause. More than a score of move- 
ments must follow each other with swiftness and precision, 
at temperatures, too, varying as much as 480 Fahren- 

Indeed, the linotype is supreme among the modern ma- 
chines which integrate a comprehensive round of operations 
and turn out a complete article. Typesetting, typefound- 
ing, and stereotyping had been executed by hand, and, in 
part, by machinery, before Mergenthaler began to build his 
linotype. He united all three processes in one machine, so 
that an operator, with little more labor than in working a 
typewriter, now produced lines of type ready for printing. 
Had Mergenthaler in his machine dealt with types, these 
small and weak pieces of metal would have been liable to 
break in passing through an intricate distributor. His 
matrices could easily be made much stronger than types, 
and, because much larger, they easily received the numer- 
ous slots and nicks required for distribution. There was 
genius, too, in choosing a line instead of a type as his 
unit, greatly reducing the cost and labor of handling com- 
posed matter, while lessening the hazard of pi-ing, so much 
dreaded by printers. These are the points of excellence 
which keep the creation of Mergenthaler far in advance of 
its rivals. 


At this period the success of the linotype was assured, so 
as to draw around it a circle of leading newspaper pub- 
lishers. Foremost of these came Stilson Hutchins, propri- 
etor of the Washington Post, who one day brought with him 
his friend Whitelaw Reid, of the New York Tribune, an 
introduction big with fate for the linotype, as we shall duly 
see. Another member of the group was Melville E. Stone, 
of the Chicago New's, who was chosen president of the 
Company in the place of Mr. Hine, who resigned. Mr. 
Stone wished the factory to be removed to Chicago, that it 
might receive his personal supervision. Mergenthaler de- 
clined to leave Baltimore, so in Baltimore the factory re- 
mained. There work proceeded with energy never for a 
moment relaxed, Mergenthaler engaging Sumter Black, a 
capital draftsman, as his assistant. In the summer of 1885 
the independent matrix machine was brought to a trium- 
phant test. In every particular it displayed an advance on 
previous designs. The matrices were stored in vertical 
copper tubes, each matrix descending at the touch of a 
finger key, to be caught by its ears as it dropped on a tiny 
railroad. Thence it was blown by an air blast to the as- 
sembling-point. As each matrix was in full view during its 
journey, an operator could correct errors in a moment. 
He could as easily insert italics or other unusual characters. 
Wedge spacers came in between words to justify each line, 
and then the line of matrices was borne to the front of a 
mold where casting was effected. 

Hard work, long protracted, had been needed to score 
this great mechanical triumph. A task every whit as hard 
was to induce printers to employ the linotype so skilfully 
created. Manual composition was to them quite satis- 
factory, for it yielded them a fair profit. It was all very 
well to watch a model machine as it responded to the touch 
of its inventor, or one of his trained assistants, but what 
would befall its intricate levers and cams under the fingers 


of an everyday operator ? Then came the query : " How do 
we know that Mergenthaler has come to the end of his 
improvements? Where will we be if next year he super- 
sedes his costly machine of to-day?" Listening to these 
objections, and to the answers which they elicited, a syn- 
dicate of newspaper publishers resolved to give the lino- 
type a fair trial in their offices. These leaders deserve 
mention: Whitelaw Reid, of the New York Tribune; Mel- 
ville E. Stone, of the Chicago Neivs, to whom succeeded 
Victor E. Lawson; Henry Smith, of the Chicago Inter- 
Ocean, and Walter N. Haldeman, of the Louisville Courier- 

To their composing rooms the linotype went forthwith. 
Mr. Reid, who gave the linotype its name, was the first to 
set its mechanism in motion. In July, 1886, it began work 
on the daily edition of the Tribune, and also composed " The 
Tribune Book of Open Air Sports," issued that year as a 
premium. Other machines followed in quick succession, 
until, at the close of 1886, a dozen of them were busy in the 
Tribune office. They gave fair satisfaction, but they dis- 
closed weaknesses and defects under the severe strain of 
newspaper production. Trouble, too, arose from the em- 
ployment of operators wholly unused to machinery. In the 
meantime, despite Mergenthaler's protest, he was ordered 
to build one hundred additional machines. He plainly saw 
how he could banish difficulties which stood in the way of 
easy and accurate working. But his board of directors 
decided that the Tribune model was good enough, and en- 
joined him from modifying its design, for the present at 
least. Indeed, the Board went the length of ordering him 
to manufacture a second lot of one hundred machines, mak- 
ing a total of two hundred, although the inventor prophe- 
sied danger and loss from this precipitancy. To Mergen- 
thaler each of his successive models was but a milestone to 
be passed in an onward march. To the Linotype Company 


OF 1885 


this Tribune machine marked a winning-post, which it was 
idle to overpass. 

With undisguised reluctance Mergenthaler proceeded to 
execute the behest of his directors. The plant in Camden 
Street was enlarged, and its staff was increased from forty 
to one hundred and sixty. In Preston Street a building was 
hired where one hundred hands were kept busy producing 
matrices and assembling linotypes. Contracts were let for 
the framework of the machines, and for some of their larger 
parts, so as to confine the Company's own manufacture to 
matrices, to the more delicate mechanism, and to assembling. 
Mergenthaler had now to cover a vast and diversified field. 
First of all, he had to design many special tools: he had 
to educate raw recruits into proficiency: and all the while 
he was under constant pressure from his stockholders for 
quick and ample dividends. 

A prime need was to produce matrices at low cost. An 
attempt to have them furnished by contractors ended in 
total failure. To supply an adequate plant for matrices 
demanded no fewer than thirty special machines, all to be 
provided with skilled attendants. With these at command, 
Mergenthaler was able to turn out matrices at a cost within 
the estimates of his principals. His initial task was to pre- 
pare and maintain the stamps which indented these matrices. 
The Benton & Waldo engraving machine, when it appeared, 
was just what he needed, but it came so late that it found 
Mergenthaler far advanced in devising a similar machine. 
In the meantime vexations sprang up on every side. Con- 
tractors were tardy with deliveries ; and their supplies were 
often of inferior quality. From the Tribune office were re- 
turned faulty matrices which testified to careless manufac- 
ture. Mergenthaler did all that mortal could in training his 
staff. He printed instructions in detail, such as are issued 
to-day by " efficiency experts." He remained with his men 
from dawn to dusk and later. When he saw a mistake, 


he corrected it with his own hands ; but, nevertheless, work 
proceeded with provoking slowness, especially in the as- 
sembling-room. Thus always must a pioneer suffer from 
the absence of formed habits and aptitudes in his working 
force, from their utter lack of the inherited and contagious 
skill which abounds in every long established trade and 

From the Tribune office Mergenthaler received golden 
hints from two trusty lieutenants, Ferdinand J. Wich and 
Ernest Girod. At first the cams whicn ejected the slugs 
were of cast iron, so as to wear rapid)/. They suggested 
hardened steel instead. Cams which bore grooves were 
liable to choking by splashes of molten metal. These grooves 
should be omitted in future designs. The ejector lever was 
feebly bolted to its frame, so that it soon worked loose. 
Strength here was called for. Minor improvements in the 
lifting and distributing mechanism were also proposed by 
these faithful allies of the inventor. His new machines al- 
ways embodied the improvements thus suggested to him. 

It was the task of assembling his machines that most ex- 
asperated the forbearing spirit of Mergenthaler. As a 
spur he offered a bonus of ten dollars for every machine as- 
sembled within a reasonable, appointed cost. One of his 
men was soon assembling two machines a week, adding 
twenty dollars to his wages every Saturday night. Includ- 
ing his handsome bonus, this dexterous worker's machines 
cost less to assemble than any others produced in the shop, 
repeating the familiar experience that the highest priced 
labor is cheapest in the end, because the most efficient. 
Mergenthaler now extended his bonuses from the as- 
sembling-room to the manufacturing department, where 
they stimulated output in the like cheering fashion. By 
February, 1888, fifty machines had been delivered to news- 
paper offices within the subscribing circle. During this 
period of hard work, largely experimental, Mergenthaler 



and his directors gradually drifted apart. Their quarrel 
culminated on March 15, 1888, when, in 'a mood of just 
anger, the inventor resigned from the Company's service. 
Mergenthaler was a sensitive man, of highly strung nerves, 
and unrelenting criticism from a standpoint purely financial 
chafed him beyond endurance. The Company now re- 
moved its factory from Baltimore to Brooklyn, where its 
vast structure on Ryerson Street forms one of the land- 
marks of Greater New York. In 1889, the next year, im- 
mense profits began to be reaped from linotypes. In that 
twelvemonth the New York Tribune saved $80,000 by the 
use of its machines. Other offices netted a proportionate 
gain. And yet the inventor's royalty was now only fifty 
dollars per machine, to which figure, in a moment of weak- 
ness, he had been induced to lower his compensation. In 
thus modifying his original agreement, which gave him 
$120, Mergenthaler committed what he regarded as the 
chief mistake of his life. 

Mergenthaler's pride and passion was the machine which 
he had created, and, notwithstanding his rupture with the 
Linotype Company, he continued to add to the value of their 
property by further improvement of his designs. As his 
assistant he engaged Alfred Peterson, a talented draftsman. 
Surveying the results of actual work for months together, 
Mergenthaler proceeded to dismiss one difficulty and defect 
after another. First of all, he attacked the keyboard touch, 
which was hard and variable, so that only a deft 'operator 
could keep the matrices from occasionally flying out of their 
channels. The distributor lacked strength : this part and 
other parts were not easy of access to a repairer. Matrices 
were no longer borne by an air blast, but fell by gravity 
to the assembling-space from magazines diagonally placed. 
The distributing elevator was replaced by the familiar arm 
which, after the casting process, now lifted the lines of 
matrices to the top of the machine, where they automatically 


dropped into their individual boxes. The column base was in- 
troduced, the justifying and locking devices were improved, 
the channel plate was provided with hinged ends, double 
channels were furnished for " e " and " n," the two-line 
letter was devised so as greatly to facilitate the composition 
of advertisements in newspapers. This machine, says Mr. 
Frederick J. Warburton, treasurer of the Mergenthaler 
Linotype Company, marks the milestone between linotypes 
ancient and modern. 

Severe toil and unending anxiety told at last on the 
rugged frame of Mergenthaler. In September, 1888, he 
was attacked by pleurisy, and for weeks his life trembled in 
the balance. He recovered, thanks to the nursing of his 
devoted wife, but with health so impaired that he afterward 
fell a victim to consumption. As he regained strength he 
resumed work on his linotype, and by the close of 1888 he 
brought its mechanism to the form which it substantially re- 
tained until his death, eleven years later. His designs, 
sketched with his wonted clearness, were laid before his 
friends, with the information that the inventor had not 
the means to give them effect. Again James Ogilvie Cle- 
phane stepped into the breach ; he collected ten checks, each 
for $200, and remitting the $2,000 to Mergenthaler, enabled 
him to build what proved to be his last and best machine. 
In the course of 1889 this model was brought to a test which 
stamped it as an unqualified success. It was not only 
swifter than its forerunners, but it did better work. As a 
structure it had gained both strength and steadiness. But 
its weight was still excessive, a fault chargeable to its 
draftsman, whose frames were apt to be unduly massive. 
It was determined to lighten the patterns judiciously, and 
then build a second machine to serve as a model in manu- 
facturing. This machine was finished in February, 1890, 
and forthwith exhibited in the Judge Building, New York, 
by James Clephane and Abner Greenleaf, the friends tried 


and true of its inventor. This exhibition had a telling re- 
sult: within a few months several hundred orders were 
received. All doubt and hesitation on the part of printers 
was now at an end. Firms of limited capital, or who wished 
to avoid risks of supersedure, could lease machines instead 
of buying them. The Company established a school for 
linotypers, in which expertness rapidly passed from seniors 
to juniors. The machine of 1888 was an acknowledged 
money-maker. Its successor of 1890 was quicker, easier to 
handle, and much less liable to get out of order. 

While the linotype had been quietly passing from prac- 
ticability to excellence, it had won over the publishers at 
first by scores, and then by hundreds. But what of the 
working printers, especially those enlisted in the Typo- 
graphical Unions ? It was a memorable day for the manu- 
facturing company when its machines were adopted by the 
Standard-Union office in Brooklyn, a few blocks away. 
This large office was under the jurisdiction of Typographical 
Union No. 6, the largest and most powerful in Ame-rica. 
This acceptance of the linotype by organized labor came 
about mainly through the diplomacy of Mr. Hine, a man of 
tact, sympathy, and candor. In December, 1891, Mr. Hine 
resigned from the presidency of the Company, and was 
succeeded by Mr. Philip T. Dodge, who, as patent attorney 
and legal adviser, had rendered inestimable services to the 

While financiers were at last reaping golden harvests from 
the linotype, there was tragedy not far away. Mergen- 
thaler's invention came to its victory at a time of profound 
depression in business. This, on one hand, stimulated sales 
of the machine, the while that many a compositor past his 
prime was thrown out of work. Operators at the new key- 
board were for the most part dexterous young fellows, who 
soon outpaced hand typesetters four to five times. Then, 
more than now, a good deal of work had to be done at 


cases, in setting books, in composing display advertise- 
ments, and the like. This kept a few veterans on payrolls ; 
but at first hundreds, and then thousands, were cut adrift. 
To-day there are more compositors proportionately than 
ever before. Newspapers are leafier, books more numerous. 
This expansion, to be credited as much to cheap paper as to 
cheap composition, came only in the course of years ; and in 
the meantime there was acute and widespread suffering. 
Over and over again appeared characteristic aid from within 
the ranks of printers themselves. In one large New York 
office the operators for years worked but five days in the 
week, so that they might be employed in sevens instead of 
fives. During that time of bitter stress many a poor old 
printer, unfit to face the new rivalry of keys and cams, took 
his life. One morning a Union almoner entered a printer's 
wretched quarters near Brooklyn Bridge, where a baby had 
two hours before been born. Every stick of furniture but 
a bed and a chair had been sold for bread or burned for 
fuel. This almoner was a story-writer for weekly journals. 
A friend to whom he recited this visit asked him why he 
did not describe it in his next tale ? Said he : "I would as 
lief make ' copy ' out of my mother's deathbed ! " 

When other revolutionary inventions threaten similar 
woe, may not Property be just and merciful enough to 
bestow a part of its enormous gains on the men, and women, 
from whom otherwise the new machinery would tear the 
little that they have? During 1910 the Mergenthaler 
Linotype Company earned $2,733,000, having built to the 
close of that year in America no fewer than 16,000 ma- 
chines. In foreign lands the production to the same 'date 
was about 10,000 machines. 

While shadows closed around many an old-time com- 
positor, they fell also upon Mergenthaler, the innocent cause 
of pain and loss as well as the creator of vast new wealth 
through his marvelous mechanism. Toward the end of 


1894 the inventor's health underwent a marked change for 
the worse. He was informed by his physician that tuber- 
culosis had begun its ravages. Mergenthaler at once re- 
moved to the Blue Mountains of Maryland, and afterward 
took up his residence at Saranac Lake, New York, in the 
Baker cottage, occupied seven years prior by Robert Louis 
Stevenson. Although he sometimes enjoyed days which 
promised a restoration of strength, these days became fewer 
and fewer. Dreading the rigors of the North, he con- 
cluded to take up his abode in Arizona. Thither he went 
from Baltimore in June, 1896. Near Prescott he built a 
pavilion where he lived for six months with a guide as his 
companion. Thence he sought a more favorable climate in 
Deming, New Mexico, where, in November of the next 
year, his house, with its contents, was destroyed by fire. He 
had occupied himself for months in writing his autobiog- 
raphy, based upon many records, legal and personal, and 
hundreds of letters. All went up in flame. In April, 1898, 
he returned from Deming to Baltimore, where he wrote an 
autobiography much briefer in compass than the volume 
burned in New Mexico. In Baltimore his strength steadily 
failed, and he expired on Saturday, October 28, 1899, at his 
house, 159 West Lanvale Street. Three days later his 
burial took place in Loudon Park Cemetery. Long before 
the closing scene his heart was cheered by recognition of 
his great talents: he was awarded a medal by Cooper In- 
stitute, New York; the John Scott medal by the City of 
Philadelphia; and the Elliott Cresson gold medal by the 
Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. 

Let us return to 1899, and watch a linotype as its in- 
ventor left it, that we may have a just impression of his ex- 
traordinary gifts as an inventor. At the top of the machine 
is a magazine, divided into 90 parts, containing about 1,500 
matrices, which respond to an operator's touch on a key- 


board. Each matrix is a small, flat plate of brass, having on 
one edge an incised letter, and in the upper end a series of 
teeth for distributing purposes. There are several matrices 
for each character, and for spaces and " quads " of definite 
thicknesses. Used in connection with these matrices are 
spacers shaped as double-wedges, inserted between words. 

As the keyboard is manipulated, the matrices descend to 
an inclined traveling belt, which carries them into the as- 
sembler. This task continues until the assembler contains 
characters enough for one line of print. It then moves 
to a mold extended through the mold wheel, the mold being 
of the size required for a slug. The assembled matrix line 
now closes the front of this mold, and the faces of the 
matrices are brought into line with it. At this point the 
wedge-shaped spacers are pushed through the line, effecting 
justification. Behind the mold is a pot, heated by gas, con- 
taining molten type metal. This pot has a mouthpiece ar- 
ranged to close the rear of the mold, and is provided with 
a pump. While the matrix line is in position, this pump 
forces its metal into the mold, so as to fill the incised char- 
acters of the matrices. The type metal solidifies instantly. 
The mold wheel then makes part of a revolution, bringing 
the mold in front of an ejector blade, which pushes the slug 
out of the mold into a receiving galley, ready for printing. 
To insure absolute accuracy in the thickness and height of 
slugs, knives act upon them during their travel to the galley. 
The line of matrices is then lifted from the mold to the dis- 
tributor bar at the top of the machine, the wedge-shaped 
spacers being left behind and taken to their own receptacle. 

Automatic distribution, perfected in this machine, de- 
serves a moment's pause. It began with a French inventor, 
Robert Etienne Gaubert, in 1840. His mechanism was 
much improved by Soreson and other ingenious mechanics. 
To an observer unfamiliar with contrivances of this kind, 
the effect is puzzling. How do the " a's " find their way 



into box " a," the " b's " into box " b," and so on? Let 
us take the simplest case possible, and suppose that the 
" a's " have an ear at each upper end, by which they ride 
on a rail along which they are impelled by a rapid screw. 
Let that rail end just above the " a " box, and all the u a's " 
will drop into that box. But in a linotype there are 90 char- 
acters, and it is impossible to give each a pair of rails to 
itself. What then ? Suppose you give the " b's " two 
pairs of ears, one pair above the other, with four rails 
for them to ride upon. The " b's " will fall only at a place 
where both pairs of rails come to an end, and at that point 
they will find the " b " box. Each matrix in the whole 
array of 90 is thus provided with ears peculiar to itself, 


and with a box into which it drops when those ears find 
their rails interrupted. 

Justification, every whit as difficult as distribution, was 
accomplished by Mergenthaler in his step-by-step wedges. 
These were forced between each pair of words until a line, 
effectually tightened, was cast. The spacers patented by 
Jacob William Schuckers, in 1885, are a preferable because 
a continuous device. He placed two long thin wedges to- 
gether so that their boundaries were parallel. When such 
pairs of wedges are driven into a line as far as they will 
go, perfect justification is the result. In its original form, 
dating from the dawn of human wit, a wedge has had 
boundaries inclined to each other. There was long ago a 
heightening of the value of wedges by using them in pairs, 
the sharp edge of one wedge being laid against the thick 



back of another, so that their outer boundaries were paral- 
lel. Wedges thus united, and slidden upon one another, 
serve to lift great weights. In small sizes they are the 
taper-parallels and taper-wedges of machinists. In 
a few small printing offices there still linger wedges in pairs 
used to secure type in its iron frame, called a chase. One 

Surfaces A art Bare \ 



series of wedges is cast on the inner side of this chase; 
between these cast wedges and the type wooden wedges, or 
quoins, are driven by a shooting stick and a mallet. Here, 
indeed, Schuckers may have received a suggestion for 
double-wedges so refined as to conquer a field incomparably 
more important than any other to which wedges had ever 
before been applied.* 

* Jacob William Schuckers was born in Philadelphia on March 18, 
1831, of a German father and a Irish mother. In 1832 his parents 
removed to Wooster, Ohio, which became their permanent home. 
Jacob attended public schools until 1846, when he entered the com- 
posing room of the Wooster Republican, and learned the printer's 
trade. He remained there until 1859, when he went to Cleveland, 
Ohio, and worked as a printer on the Leader of that city. During 
the summer of 1860 he became a clerk in the United States Treas- 
ury at Washington. Next year, when the Hon. Salmon P. Chase, 
of Ohio, was appointed Secretary of the Treasury, he engaged 
Schuckers as his private secretary, always regarding him with im- 


We note that in a linotype three distinct operations go 
'forward together, composing one line, casting a second, 
and distributing a third, so that the machine has a pace 
exceeding that at which an expert operator can finger his 
keys. This high speed of circulation renders it unneces- 
sary to have more than a few matrices of any uncommon 
sort, such as accented or mathematical characters. A lino- 
type usually turns out 5,000 ems of solid, justified, and per- 
fectly spaced matter per hour, in the hands of a single 
operator ; this is four to five times faster than manual com- 
position. As each line is composed in plain sight, correc- 
tions may be effected before a line is cast, as easily as in 
typesetting by hand. As errors in distribution are impos- 
sible, machine proofs are much less faulty than matter set by 
hand. By a change of matrices and molds, easily and 
quickly effected, a machine produces any face, from agate 
to small pica, and any length of line not exceeding five 
inches. Each magazine contains channels for a font of 
matrices: these may be of any face desired, and each 
machine may have two, three, or four magazines. 

A machine requires about one-third of a horse-power 

plicit confidence and high esteem. When Mr. Chase became Chief 
Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Schuckers proceeded 
to Albany, New York, where he studied law, but he developed a 
dislike of law, and never completed his studies. He now wrote a 
Life of Mr. Chase, and for years contributed to the Sun and other 
New York papers, as well as to the press of Philadelphia. In that 
city he speculated in real estate with profit, but the panic of 1873 
swept away his little fortune. He then began to devise a type- 
setting machine, producing a succession of ingenious designs. In 
his latest model he used a typewriter keyboard, and introduced his 
double-wedge spacer. During the closing years of his life he re- 
sided in Newark. 

In 1901 he was secretary for the New Jersey Commission at the 
Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo. In October he was taken 
seriously ill. On November 19 he died: four days afterward his re- 
mains were laid at rest in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington. 


to drive it; this can be most satisfactorily supplied by an 
electric motor. It is important that the metal for the melt- 
ing pot be of good quality, and maintained in excellence. 
Its temperature should not exceed 550 Fahrenheit. This 
metal, in the latest machines, is heated by electricity. 

Since Mergenthaler's day his linotype has been adapted 
to composing books of the most exacting kind, mathematical 
treatises and the like. The book in the reader's hands was 
composed on a Number One model. Both for the composi- 
tion of books and newspapers new facilities are constantly 
being created by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 
whose staff of inventors is directed by Mr. John R. Rogers. 
In the latest model four magazines of matrices are at an 
operator's command. As each of these magazines gives him 
a choice of either of two letters for every one of his 90 
keys, he has no fewer than 720 different characters at his 
ringers' ends. Mr. Rogers has devised a simple mode of 
casting slugs with deep recesses, into which brass rules may 
be readily inserted for tabular work such as reports of banks, 
boards of trade, and the like. A device equally ingenious 
casts letters twice as long as ordinary type : these serve to 
print an initial word in an advertising or other announce- 
ment. To-day letters are cast in many languages, and in 
sizes large enough for newspaper headings. Manual com- 
position in newspaper and job offices has, therefore, a nar- 
rower field than ever, with a prospect of total supersedure at 
no distant day. In its earlier models, the linotype offered 
but one font for a single task. To-day a No. 9 machine 
permits the union, in one line, of eight or more diverse 
alphabets. Metal for slugs may now be hard enough to 
print 100,000 impressions before showing perceptible wear. 
It may be recalled that Mergenthaler, at the outset of his 
project for single matrices, estimated their cost at two dol- 
lars each. To-day a matrix bearing a single letter costs but 
three cents. 



Accidental discoveries, 192 

Air engines, their shortcomings, 

Allston, Washington, teacher of 
S. F. B. Morse, 123; on 
Morse's theory of colors, 136; 
letter from Morse on photog- 
raphy, 155; portrait and Jere- 
miah presented by Morse to 
Yale, 173 

Alphabet, dot-and-dash, Morse, 
149; its precursors, 150; its 
universal applicability, 152 

Appleby, John F., knotter, 305 

Ardrey, Robert L., " American 
Agricultural Implements " on 
Ogle reaper, 282; on early 
McCormick reaper, 299; on 
Appleby self-binder, 307 

Armor and guns, their duel, 31, 
53; a forecast in Fulton's 
"Torpedo War," 53 

Artists in their imagination akin 
to inventors, 128 


Bacon, Francis, telegraphic code, 

Banks, Nathaniel P., cousin and 
shopmate of Elias Howe, 344 

Barlow, Joel, host of Robert 
Fulton, 47; death, 47; letter 
from Fulton to, 64 

Beach, Alfred E., writing ma- 
chine, 323, 326 

Bell, Patrick, describes his reap- 
er, 284 ; Slight's account, 290 ; 
picture of reaper, 291 ; testi- 
monial to Bell, 293 

Bernard, Charles, on John Erics- 
son as draftsman, 243 

Bird, tailor, of India, 346 

Blakey, William, devises tubular 
boiler, 12 

Blanchard, Thomas, birth and 
early life, 107; copied busts 
on lathe in National Capitol, 
104; details of design, 106; 
builds a forge, 107 ; makes an 
apple-parer, 108; makes tacks 
and a tack machine, 109 ; its 
details, no, in; designs a 
lathe guided by a cam, 112; 
invents copying lathe, 113; its 
uses and modifications, 115; 
advocates a railroad for Mas- 
sachusetts, 115; builds the 
Vermont, Massachusetts, and 
other steamers, 1 16 ; designs a 
machine for bending timber, 
1 1 6, 117; becomes an expert 
in patent cases, 118 

Bloodgood, Abraham, revolving 
turret, 255 

Blower, centrifugal, Ericsson, 

Blunt, Colonel S. E., modern 
rifle Springfield Armory com- 
pared with Whitney musket, 

Boiler, water-tube, Stevens, ad- 
vantages, 13; used by Fulton, 

Boyce, Joseph, cutters for reap- 
ers, 281 

Brack, William R., on Ottmar 
Mergenthaler, 415 

Braithwaite, John, partner of 
John Ericsson, 221 

Bramah, Joseph, revolving cut- 
ters, 106 

British inventors beginning I9th 
century, 280 

Brown, Thomas and Joseph, 
build Ogle reaper, 282 

Bushnell, David, torpedoes, 47 




Calhoun, John C, portraits and 
busts, 104 

Caldwell, Mrs. Jane R., daugh- 
ter of Elias Howe, 368 

Caloric engine, Ericsson, 225, 
226, 227 

Camden & Amboy Railroad, 24 

Casson, Herbert N., biographer 
of Cyrus H. McCormick, 312 

Chain-stitch, 359 

Chappe telegraph, 135 

Choate, Rufus, on Blanchard 
and his lathe, 105 

Church, William Conant, Life 
of John Ericsson, 220 

Clay, Henry, portraits and busts, 

Clephane, James O., criticises 
Sholes' typewriter, 328; en- 
gages Ottmar Mergenthaler, 
405, 408; extends aid, 424 

Clocks with automata, 400 

Cobb, Nathan A., cotton classi- 
fication, 95 

Condenser, surface, Ericsson, 

Cooper, James Fenimore, friend- 
ship with S. F. B. Morse, 137 ; 
offends John Quincy Adams, 

Cornell, Ezra, builds first tele- 
graph line, 159; subscribes 
for New York line, 162 

Cotton crop, 94; classification, 

N. A. Cobb, 95 

Cotton gin, Whitney, 80; its 
value to the South during 
Civil War, 94; recent im- 
provements, 95 

Cutters, revolving, development, 
106; for reapers, early forms, 

Cylinder, rippling, William 
Pitt's, 281 

Daguerre, friendship with S. F. 

B. Morse, 154 
Davis, Ari, employed Elias 

Howe, 344 

Day, Jeremiah, teacher of S. F. 
B. Morse, 122 

De Forest, James, befriends 
Charles Goodyear, 185 

De Forest, William, befriends 
Charles Goodyear, 196 

Delamater, Cornelius H., friend- 
ship with John Ericsson, 242; 
advances half cost Destroyer, 

Densmore, James, buys part 
Sholes' patent, 327, 328; fac- 
simile of letter to E. D. Inger- 
soll, 329 

Dickens, Charles, copies Sholes' 
recital of murder, 320 

Digesters for wood pulp, faulty 
and improved, 376 

Distribution of type, 395; of 
matrices in linotype, 397, 428 

Dodge, Philip T., president 
Mergenthaler Linotype Co., 


Donatus, Latin Grammar, 317 

Dot-and-dash alphabet, Morse, 
149; its forerunners, 150; its 
universal applicability, 152 

Draft, forced, devised by R. L. 
and E. A. Stevens, 25; its 
general development and ad- 
vantages, 26 

Dunlap, William, on S. F. B. 
Morse's theory of colors, 136 

Dunlop, John Boyd, pneumatic 
tire, 206 

Dwight, President Timothy, 
friend of S. F. B. Morse, 121 

Edge-rail, 22 

Electrical engineering indebted 
to telegraph, 119 

Ericsson, John, birth, boy- 
hood, education, 218; takes 
command of 600 troops, joins 
Rifle Corps, attains captaincy, 
219; studied artillery, his 
personality at twenty-one, Life 
by W. C. Church, 220; 
resides in Havre, goes to 
England, tests flame-engine, 



partner of John Braithwaite, 
employs compressed air to 
transmit motive-power, de- 
vises centrifugal blower, 221 ; 
invents surface - condenser, 
places machinery of Victory 
below water-line, invents 
steam fire engine, 222 ; " Nov- 
elty" locomotive, 223; steam- 
jet motor, 224; over-estimates 
value in energy of fuel, re- 
generator, invents caloric en- 
gine, 225; marriage, 228; 
aloofness and its penalty, de- 
signs screw propeller, tests it 
with success, 229; designs a 
direct-acting engine for pro- 
pulsion, alliance with Robert 
F. Stockton, 230 ; goes to 
New York, 232 ; designs steam 
frigate Princeton, wins prize 
for fire engine, propellers 
widely adopted, 232; fatality 
on the Princeton, 233 ; rein- 
forces guns with hoops, 234; 
Government refuses payment 
for designing Princeton, 235 ; 
writes in distress to John D. 
Sargent, naturalized in 1848, 
236; devises a pyrometer, 
builds large caloric engines, 
237; designs and builds the 
Ericsson caloric ship, 238; 
wrecked, 239 ; its subsequent 
career, 240 ; reviews caloric 
principle with confidence, many 
small caloric engines used with 
profit, 241 ; Swedish songs, 
242; an accomplished drafts- 
man, 243 ; designs, names, and 
builds the Monitor, 244 ; de- 
tails, 247; her fight with the 
Merrimac, 249 ; congratula- 
tions, 251 ; writes John 
Bourne defending Monitor de- 
sign, 253 ; plans six monitors 
for U. S. Navy, 256 ; designs 
the 'Dictator and the Puritan, 
257; plans series shallow gun- 
boats, 258; gives Sweden a 
Rodman gun and plans vessels 
for her defense, designs gun- 
boats for Cuba, 259 ; rotary 

gun-carriage, devis'es torpedo, 
262 ; plans the Destroyer, 
with submarine gun, 263 ; 
plans vessel for coast defense, 
265; improvements of steam 
engine reviewed, 266; love of 
country, 267; honors from 
Sweden, monument in birth- 
place, 267; gift to Jonas Ols- 
son, a playmate, gift to starv- 
ing Swedes, death of mother, 
268; generosity to kindred 
and friends, a degree from 
University of Lund, solar 
motor, 269, 270; homes in 
New York, 271 ; personal 
traits, 272; methods of 
thought and work, simple reg- 
imen and housekeeping, 273 ; 
serenaded by Swedish soci- 
eties, 274; last illness, death, 
remains borne to Sweden for 
interment, 275 

Farragut, Admiral D. G., on 
monitors, 252 

Fisher, George, advances capital 
to Elias Howe, 348 

Fitch, John, steamboat, 7, 55 

Forest Products Laboratory, ex- 
periments with woods for pa- 
per pulp, 379 

Fort, Arthur, sued by Miller & 
Whitney, 83 

Foucault, typewriter, 327 

Fox, Gustavus Vasa, assistant 
secretary U. S. Navy, supports 
John Ericsson, 248 

Francis, William, typewriter, 
323 ; inked ribbon, 326 

Franklin Institute Journal on 
reaper patents, 296; on Tilgh- 
man sand blast, 381 

Fulton, Robert, his steamboat 
monopoly abolished, 17; birth, 
41 ; early life, 41 ; admires 
West's pictures, 42 ; learns 
gunsmithing, 42 ; builds a boat 
driven by paddle-wheels, 43; 
practises painting, 44; sailed 



for England, 44 ; devised in- 
clined planes for carrying 
ships, 45 ; advocated canals, 
45, 52; designed power-shovel, 
46; invented iron aqueduct, 
46; published "Canal Naviga- 
tion," 47; entertained by Joel 
Barlow, illustrates his Co- 
lumbiad, 47 ; paints a pan- 
orama, " The Burning of Mos- 
cow," 47; tests torpedoes, 47; 
builds the Nautilus, a diving 
boat, 48; directs torpedo boat 
against British fleet, 49 ; de- 
stroys by torpedoes a brig in 
England, 51 ; refuses to let 
England suppress his torpe- 
does, 51; plans steamboat, 54; 
launches it with disaster, 57; 
a second experiment succeeds, 
57; builds the Clermont, 59; 
her first trip, 61 ; plan of the 
Clermont, 62; his Raritan and 
Car of Neptune, 62; estab- 
lishes first steam ferry in New 
York, 63 ; rules for passen- 
gers Hudson steamboats, 65 ; 
destroys a brig by torpedoes 
in New York harbor, 66; in- 
forms Thomas Jefferson re- 
garding submarine gunnery, 
67 ; a forecast in his " Tor- 
pedo War," 67 ; criticism by 
Commodore Rodgers, 68; final 
projects, 69; derived from fish 
a hint for submersible craft, 
70 ; criticised Des Blancs as 
vague, 70; precision of his 
methods, 71; exposes a "per- 
petual motion," 71 ; designs 
Fulton the First, the first 
steam warship, 71 ; death and 
burial, 72 ; personality, career 
reviewed, 73 ; note from Eli 
Whitney, 93 

Gauss and Weber, telegraphic 

code, 151 
Gibbs, James A. E., inventor 

sewing machine, 366 

Giffard, injector, 384 

Gifford, George, peacemaker in 
sewing machine contest, 361 

Gin, roller, 79; Whitney, So, 82 

Girod, Ernest, aids Ottmar Mer- 
genthaler, 422 

Gladstone invented side-draught 
for reaper, 281 

Glidden, Carlos, partner C. L. 
Sholes, 321 

Goodyear, Charles, birth, 176; 
early life, disclaimed special 
talent as mechanic, 177; mar- 
riage, begins business in Phila- 
delphia, bankruptcy, 178; first 
observation of gum elastic, 179; 
invents tube for life-preserver, 
180; tanning or curing gum 
elastic, 181 ; makes rubber 
shoes which melt, 182 ; lime has 
preserving value, 182 ; nitric 
acid banishes stickiness, 183; 
wife as helper, forms partner- 
ship with William Ballard, 
184; extreme poverty, 185; 
buys Hayward's patent for 
sulphur treatment of gum 
elastic, 186; makes mail bags 
which decompose, 187; discov- 
ers vulcanization, daughter's 
account, 189; first experiments 
at home, mixes cotton fiber 
with rubber for cloth, 190; 
vulcanization not an accidental 
discovery, 192; finds celerity 
of production imperative, re- 
cites early experiments, 194; 
goes to jail for debt, accepts 
relief from bankrupt court, 
197 ; reviews importance of vul- 
canized rubber, 198 ; produces 
hard rubber, 200; portrait by 
Healy painted on hard rubber, 
200; vulcanized rubber com- 
pared with its parent gum, 
201 ; modern manufacture, 
202; his note-book, 204; de- 
signs life-preservers, 205 ; 
keen interest in safety at sea, 
drawings horseman, lifeboat, 
208; on hardships of invent- 
ors, 209; rivalry of Macin- 
tosh, 21 1 ; patents in England 



and France, 213 ; London Ex- 
hibition, suit against Horace 
H. Day, arguments of Daniel 
Webster, 213; letter from 
Debtor's Prison, Boston, 214; 
goes to Europe, death of wife, 
second marriage, 215; impris- 
oned at Clichy, serious illness, 
returns to America, last mod- 
els, 216; death, 217 

Goodyear, Nelson, grandson of 
Charles Goodyear, 178 

Goodyear, Prof. W. H., son of 
Charles Goodyear, 178 

Gordon, James F. and John H., 
self-binder, 306 

Gorham, Marquis L., self- 
binder, 306 

Governors, House of, W. G. 
Jordan, 89 

Greene, Mrs. N., contributes 
brush to cotton gin, 81 

Greenleaf, Abner, exhibits lino- 
type, 424 

Gum elastic, first importation, 
properties and uses, 179 

Gunpowder in peace and war, 

Guns, reinforced with hoops by 
Ericsson, 234, 261 

Gutenberg, John, casts type, 
317; cuts type-molds, 401 


Hammond, James H., type- 
writer, 332 

Hancock, Thomas, experiments 
in vulcanization, 211 

Harries, Prof. Karl, produces 
artificial rubber, 203 

Harvester, self-binding, devel- 
opment, 307 

Hayward, Nathaniel, combined 
sulphur with gum, Goodyear 
buys his patent, 186 

Headers in Far West, 308 

Heath, Frederick, on Sholes 
typewriter, 324 

Heilmann needle, eye in middle, 

Hemlock for paper pulp, 379 

Henry, Joseph, telegraphic exper- 
iments, 138; answers Morse's 
questions, 145 ; congratulates 
him, 146; to-day his mech- 
anism survives, 165 ; advocates 
extension of Morse's patent, 

Henry, William, steamboat, 54 

Hewitt, Abram S., reminiscences 
of Stevens family, 35 ; Me- 
morial Cooper Union, New 
York, 39 

hine, Lemon G., promoter of 
linotype, 410 ; remonstrance, 
417; resigns as president, 419; 
harmony with trades-unions, 

Hofmann, Dr. Fritz, produces 
artificial rubber, 203 

Holmes, Hodgen, cotton gin, 83 ; 
sued by Miller & Whitney, 84 

Holmes, Dr. O. W., on the For- 
getting of America, 338 

House of Governors suggested 
by W. G. Jordan, 89 

Howe, Elias, birth, 342; monu- 
ment, jack-of-all-trades in 
boyhood, 343 ; farmer as youth, 
works in machine-shop, 34/1 ; 
resolves to invent sewing ma- 
chine, 345; first model, 347; 
details, 349, 350; demonstra- 
tion, no buyer, 351 ; second 
model, 352; locomotive run- 
ner, obtains patent, sends 
brother Amasa to London 
with machine, which is 
adopted by William Thomas, 
353; goes to England, adapts 
machine to corset-making, 
leaves Thomas's employ, be- 
friended by Charles Inglis, 
354; returns to America, at 
work in New York, 355 ; death 
of wife, prosecutes pirates, 
356; opens shop in Gold 
Street, New York, 357; wins 
in court, triumph at last, 360; 
organizes a regiment, serves in 
the ranks, 362; last illness and 
death, 368 

Howe, Tyler, uncle of Elias 
Howe, 342 



Howe, William, uncle of Elias 
Howe, 342; machine for cut- 
ting palm leaves, 348 

Humboldt, Alexander Von, 
friendship with S. F. B. 
Morse, 137 

Hunt, Walter, sewing machine, 
342, 359 

Hussey, Obed, reaper, 290; har- 
vester-finger, 291 ; rivalry in 
London with McCormick, 304 


Ingersoll, Edwin D., facsimile 
of letter from James Dens- 
more on Sholes typewriter, 

T 329 

Inventors of imagination are 
akin to artists, 128 

Jack pine for paper pulp, 379 

Jackson, Charles T., discusses 
telegraphy with S. F. B. 
Morse, 137 

Jackson, Governor James, op- 
poses Eli Whitney, 85 

Jordan, William George, sug- 
gests House of Governors, 89 

Justification in typesetting, 394; 
in first linotype, 413; in per- 
fected machine, Schuckers' 
double wedges, 429 


Kelvin/ Lord, improved sound- 
ing gage, 228 

Lassoe, F. V., assistant to John 

Ericsson, 272 
Lathe, Blanchard, at Springfield 

Armory, 113 
Leslie, Charles R., friendship 

with S. F. B. Morse, teaches 

at West Point, writings, 127 
Leudersdorff, L., discovers that 

gum elastic loses viscosity in 
sulphur solution, 186 

Lincoln, Abraham, counsel 
against Cyrus H. McCormick, 

Linotype, operation, 395; a slug, 
397; diagram of machine, 
398 ; mold wheel and melting 
pot, 399; first public test, 412; 
graduated wedge justified, 
414 ; factory removed to 
Brooklyn, 423; hardships due 
to linotypy, 426; description 
of 1899 machine, 428; ma- 
chine of to-day, 431 

Livingston, Robert R., obtains 
monopoly of steam navigation, 
his career, 56 

Lock-stitch, 359 

London's " Cyclopedia of Agri- 
culture " illustrates Bell's 
reaper, 290 


Mallory, Stephen R., directs 
Confederate Navy, 244 

Mann, Joseph, invented revolv- 
ing rakes, 281 

Mann, J. J. and H. F., improved 
reaper, 305 

Manning, William, reaper, 295, 

Manufactures, Standardization, 
begun by General Gribeauval, 
developed by Eli Whitney, 

Mapes, James J., friendship with 
John Ericsson, 242 

Marsh, Charles W., with Wil- 
liam W. Marsh invents har- 
vester, " Recollections," 305 

Marshall, John, Chief Justice, 
decides against Fulton, 17 

Matrix of linotype, 396 ; line of 
matrices with justifiers, 396 

Matthews, Dr. F. E., produces 
artificial rubber, 202 

Mathewson, J. E., improves 
sandblast, 384; devises tum- 
bling barrel, 390 

Mellier, Alfred C, made paper 
from poplar, 376 



Mercer, John, discovers mer- 
cerization of textiles, 199 

McCormick, Cyrus Hall, fore- 
fathers, 276; birth, early life, 
277; begins work on reaper, 
letter to Philip Pusey, on early 
models, 279 ; first patent, pic- 
ture of reaper, 1834, 295 ; first 
advertisement, buys Cotopaxi 
Furnace, 296; resumes work 
on reaper, gives demonstra- 
tion, 297 ; sales slow, goes 
West prospecting, 298 ; sec- 
ond patent, 299, 300; third 
patent, 301 ; removes to Chi- 
cago, 302; business methods, 
exhibits in London, 1851, 303; 
sues Talcott, Emerson & Co., 
whose counsel included Abra- 
ham Lincoln, 304; adopts self- 
binder, 306 ; contrast between 
first reaper and harvester, 
307 ; adopts scientific manage- 
ment, removes to New York, 
when Chicago burns he re- 
turns thither, rebuilds factory, 
310; becomes president com- 
pany, political activity, 311; 
interest in church affairs, gifts 
to Seminaries and University, 
312; personality sketched by 
Herbert N. Casson, 313; mar- 
riage, last days, death, 314 

McCormick, Leander and Wil- 
liam, brothers and partners of 
Cyrus H. McCormick, 302 

McCormick, Robert, father of 
Cyrus Hall McCormick, 277; 
large estate, invents hemp- 
brake, invents reaper, 278 ; 
buys Cotopaxi Furnace, 296 

Mergenthaler, Ottmar, arrival 
in Baltimore, a watchmaker, 
393 ; birth, parentage, early 
days, 401 ; begins work in 
Washington, 403 ; removes to 
Baltimore, 404 ; takes up 
Moore writing-machine, 405 ; 
improves it, 407; marriage, 
410; adopts type-metal instead 
of papier-mache, 411; bar-in- 
denting machine, 411; success- 
ful public test, 412 ; royalty 

arranged, 414; his personality, 
love of music, 415 ; banquet in 
Washington, 416; adopts sin- 
gle matrices, 417; effects im- 
provements, 418; produces 
cheap matrices, 421 ; final im- 
provements, attacked by pleu- 
risy, 423 ; develops tubercu- 
losis, death, honors, 427 

Merrimac, prepared to fight, 
244; the fight, 249; sinks, 251 

Miller, Phineas, becomes part- 
ner of Eli Whitney, 81 ; death, 

Monitor, planned by John Erics- 
son, 244 ; offered to Govern- 
ment, 245 ; why so named, 
built, 246; first voyage, 248; 
fights the Merrimac, 249; 
sinks, 251 ; her design de- 
fended by Ericsson, 253 ; her 
revolving turret adopted 
throughout the world, 254; its 
precursors invented by Theo- 
dore R. Timby, 255, and Abra- 
ham Bloodgood, 256 

Moore, Charles T., writing-ma- 
chine, 405; a transfer sheet, 

Morse, Edward Lind, describes 
pictures of father, Samuel F. 
B. Morse, 141 

Morse, Rev. Jedidiah, father of 
S. F. B. Morse, 120; death, 


Morse, Samuel F. B., indebted- 
ness to predecessors, 120; 
birth, draws caricature as a 
child, enters Yale College, 
122 ; begins portraiture, studies 
electricity, 123 ; paints Landing 
of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 
studies art with Washington 
Allston, 123 ; criticism from 
Benjamin West, 124; models 
The Dying Hercules, 125 ; 
friendship with C. R. Leslie, 
learns much from fellow- 
students, 127; opens a studio 
in Boston, invents a pump, be- 
comes an itinerant portrait 
painter, 129; marriage, paints 
many portraits in Charleston, 



S. C., paints Representatives, 
Washington, 130; removes to 
New York, 131 ; paints La- 
fayette's portrait, death of 
wife, 132; becomes president 
American Academy of Arts, 
death of father, attends lec- 
tures of Professor J. F. Dana, 
impressed by clutch of elec- 
tro-magnet, duly adopted, 134; 
revisits Europe to paint, 135; 
theory of colors, 136; em- 
barks for New York on the 
Sully, discusses telegraphy 
with Charles T. Jackson, 
137; draws plans for a tele- 
graph, 138; extreme poverty, 
139; disappointment in Wash- 
ington, his pictures described 
by his son, Edward Lind 
Morse, 141 ; appointed as 
professor, 141 ; outlines first 
telegraphic model and experi- 
ments, 141 ; model illustrated 
and explained, 143; Life by 
S. I. Prime, invents relay, 
questions Joseph Henry, 145; 
drawing by Morse of his al- 
phabet, 150; takes F. O. J. 
Smith as partner, 153; refused 
an English patent, obtains 
French patent, opposition 
from Czar, 154; friendship 
with Daguerre, 154; takes 
photographs, 155; discusses 
photographic art, 155; Con- 
gressional disappointment, 157; 
victory at last, 158; line built 
from Washington to Balti- 
more, 158; first message, 159; 
business small, its tariff, de- 
termines longitude of Balti- 
more, 160; recording instru- 
ment, code of abbreviations, 
161 ; Government refuses to 
buy patents, 162; telegraphic 
speeds, 163 ; opposes reading 
by ear, 164; experiments with 
cables, 166; exhibits telegraph 
in Vienna and Paris, dis- 
approves printing telegraph, 
168; second marriage, Pough- 
keepsie home, legal contests, 

169; gift from nations of Eu- 
rope, 170; banquet at Delmon- 
ico's, 172; statue erected in 
Central Park, New York, un- 
veils Franklin statue, 174; 
final illness and death, person- 
ality, 174 


Name-plate, Roman, 316 

Needle, thatching, with eye near 
point, 347 

Nelson, Charles, on John Erics- 
son as draftsman, 243 

North Carolina buys patent 
rights from Eli Whitney, 90; 
annuls purchase, 91 

" Novelty," locomotive, Erics- 
son, 223 


Ogden, Francis B., suggests 
sounding gage to John Erics- 
son, 228 ; who gives Ogden's 
name to steamer, 230 

Ogden, William B., partner of 
C. H. McCormick, 302 

Ogle, Henry, reaper, 282, 283, 

Olmsted, Denison, his " Biog- 
raphy of Whitney," quoted, 85 

Osborne, D. M., Co., manufac- 
ture Gordon self-binder, 306 

Page, Charles G., dynamo, 119 
Painting by air-blast, 391 
Paper, dearness during Civil 
War prompts quest for cheap 
sources, 375 ; straw as ingredi- 
ent, 376 
Parkes, Alexander, vulcanization 

process, 184 
Parrott, R. C., reinforced guns, 


Patent Office, U. S., loose meth- 
ods, 295 

Peace, gifts from war, 96 
Pettibone, Judge Henry, notices 
straw available for paper, 376 



Pine, jack, for paper pulp, 379 
Pitt, William, rippling cylinder, 

Plow, cast-iron, invented by E. 

A. Stevens, 25 
Plucknett, Thomas J., circular 

saw in reaper, 281 
Pope, Franklin L., on Alfred 

Vail, 152 
Powell, John, sued by Miller & 

Whitney, 83 
Pratt, John, writing machine, 


Printing, its significance, 315 
Progin, Xavier, writing ma- 
chine, 322 
Pusey, Philip, letter from C. H. 

McCormick on reapers, 279 


Quaintance, H. W., on farm ma- 
chinery, 308; on drift to cities 
from country, 309 

in New York Tribune office, 

Remington, E. & Sons, manu- 
facture Sholes typewriter, 330, 

Rider, William and Emory, be- 
friend Charles Goodyear, 196 

Rippling cylinder, William Pitt's, 

Rodgers, Commodore, criticism 
of Fulton's submarine war- 
fare, 68 

Rodman, T. J., reinforced guns, 


Rogers, John R., inventions, 

Rotary hook, Wilson, 364 

Rubber, artificial, 202; substi- 
tutes, adulterations, 203; com- 
pounding, 204 

Rumsey, James, improves tubu- 
lar boiler, 12; steamboat, pro- 
pelled by water-jet, 55 


Railroads, begin in England, 24; 

first American, 24 
Rakes, revolving, invented by 

Joseph Mann, 281 
Ramming effect of wooden 

steamer on dock, 33 
Raynal, Alfred W., on John 

Ericsson, 271 
Reapers, early models, England 

and Scotland, 280 ; Ogle's, 282 ; 

Bell's, 284; Manning's, Hus- 

sey's, 290 ; Mann's, Marsh's, 

Redheffer, Wilhelm, " perpetual 

motion," 71 

Reel of reaper, origin, 281 
Rees, Abraham, telegraphic code, 

Regenerator, invented by Rev. 

R. Stirling, improved by John 

Ericsson, 225; adapted to 

steam engine, 241 
Reid, Whitelaw, president Lino- 
type Co., 419; adopts linotype 

Saint, Thomas, sewing machine, 
338, 339 

Salmon, Robert, reciprocating 
knife for reaper, 281 

Sand blast, Tilghman, first sug- 
gestion, 381; diagram, 382; 
developments, 383 ; etching 
with sand from hopper, 385; 
cleans castings and masonry, 
ornaments glass, 387 ; iron 
sand used, 388: sand and 
water, treats files, rasps, and 
milling cutters, 389; removes 
paint, 390 

Sand, erosion by, 379 

Sargent, John O., letter from 
John Ericsson, 236 

Schilling, electric telegraph, 150 

Schuckers, Jacob W., double- 
wedges for justification, 429; 
career, 430 

Schwalbach, Matthias, aids C. L. 
Sholes, 323 

Scientific American, describes 
Pratt writing machine, 321 ; 
prediction fulfilled, 322 



Screw propeller, John Stevens, 
14; its early inventors, 15; 
Ericsson's, 230 

Seal, Arthur G., on typewriting, 

Sellers, Coleman, on sand blast, 

Sellers, George Escol, scoured 
with sand and water, 389 

Sewing machine, Thomas Saint's, 
338; B. Thimonnier's, 340; 
John Fisher's, 341 ; Grover & 
Baker's, 341 ; Walter Hunt's, 
342, 359; Elias Howe's, 349; 
J. A. E. Gibbs', 366 ; legal con- 
test at Albany ends in com- 
promise, 361 ; modern devel- 
opment, 366 

Seymour & Morgan, manufac- 
ture McCormick reapers, 299 

Shift-key in typewriter, 335 

Shirring, or puckering, rubber 
fabrics, 197 

Sholes, C. L., birth, 317; learns 
printing, removes to Wiscon- 
sin, becomes postmaster, 318; 
founds Excelsior Church, a 
Democrat, opposes slavery, 
319; becomes editor Milwau- 
kee Sentinel, and News, 320; 
devises numbering machine, 
321 ; designs typewriter, 322 ; 
keyboard, 323; first patent, 
324, 325 ; early .tests, 326 ; im- 
provements, 328 ; manufacture 
by Remingtons, 330; mortal 
illness, death, 332 

Sholes, Louis, typewriter, 331 

Sholes, Zalmon, typewriter, 331 

Silliman, Benjamin, teacher of 
S. F. B. Morse, 123 

Silvered Book, Upsala, 316 

Singer, Isaac M., inventor and 
business organizer, 357; sys- 
tem built on his foundations, 

Slight, James, describes Bell's 
reaper, 290 

Smith, Francis O. J., partner of 
S. F. B. Morse, 153; letter 
from Morse, 157 

Soule, Samuel W., partner C. L. 
Sholes, 321 

South Carolina buys patent 
rights from Eli Whitney, 89; 
annuls purchase, 91 

Springfield Armory, latest rifle 
compared with Whitney mus- 
ket, 100 

Spruce as source of paper pulp 
replaced by hemlock and jack 
pine, 379 

Standardization in manufacture, 
begun by General Gribeau- 
val, developed by Eli Whit- 
ney, 96 

Stanton, Edwin M., opposes 
Cyrus H. McCormick, 304; on 
value of reaper to the North, 

Stebbins, Josiah, notes from Eli 
Whitney, 82, 84 

Steinheil, telegraphic code, 151 ; 
writes to Morse regarding 
claim on America, 171 

Stevens, Edwin A., railroad 
manager, 24; invents cast-iron 
plow, 25; designs fire-room 
and forced draft, 25 ; experi- 
ments with shot against iron 
armor, 31 ; recommends an 
armored warship to U. S. 
Navy, 31 ; delays in its con- 
struction, never finished, 31 ; 
founds Stevens Institute, 33; 
reminiscences of Hon. A. S. 
Hewitt, 35 ; stokes Great East- 
ern, 39 

Stevens, Francis B., on screw 
propeller, 15 

Stevens Institute founded by E. 
A. Stevens, 33 ; President 
Humphreys on, 34 

Stevens, John, birth, 5 ; military 
and political services, 6; mar- 
riage, 6; New York residence, 
6; buys Hoboken estate, 6; 
suggests it for a park, 7; sees 
Fitch's steamboat, 7 ; his own 
steamboat described, 8; its 
distinctive features, 10; the 
Phoenix, 1 1 ; taken by sea to 
Philadelphia, u; the Juliana, 
ii ; ran on the Connecticut 
River, 12; improves water- 
tube boiler, 13; his attempts 



to improve steam navigation, 
15; advocates railroads, 18; 
projects a line to join New 
York and Philadelphia, 19; 
builds first American locomo- 
tive, 20; proposes elevated 
railroad, New York, 20; death, 
26; philosophical writings, 26; 
on yellow fever, 27; pro- 
jected circular iron fort, 30; 
reminiscences of A. S. Hew- 
itt, 35 

Stevens, John Cox, owns yacht 
America, 30 

Stevens, Robert L., designs a 
false bow for the New Phila- 
delphia, 16; establishes a 
steam ferry, 16; plans a shel- 
ter for pilot, 17; designs 
T-rail, 21 ; imports a supply, 
22 ; and " John Bull " loco- 
motive, 23; devises elongated 
shell, 27 ; improves steamboats 
throughout, 27; gives eight 
wheels to locomotive, 28; 
yachtsman, 28; builds the 
sloop Maria, 29; a founder N. 
Y. Yacht Club, 29 ; experiments 
with shot against armor, 
31 ; contracts to build an 
armored warship, 31 ; experi- 
ments with screw propellers, 

Stimers, Alban C, directs 
Monitor on first voyage, de- 
scribes fight with Merrimac, 
249 ; gives faulty execution to 
plans of shallow gunboats, 
death, Ericsson educated Sti- 
mers' daughter, 258 
Stirling, Rev. Robert, invented 

regenerator, 225 
Stitches, chain, lock, 359 
Stockton, Robert F., orders two 
steamboats with Ericsson ma- 
chinery, steamboat bearing his 
name, 231; the steam frigate 
Princeton built through his 
recommendation, 233; quarrel 
with Ericsson, 235 
Strasburg clock, 400 
Straw in paper, 376 

Strother, General, student of S. 

F. B. Morse, 139 
Swaim, James, telegraphic code, 


Symington, William, steamboat 
Charlotte Dundas, 57; in- 
structs Fulton, 58 

Tailor bird of India, 346 

Taylor, Frederick Winslow, 
alumnus of Stevens Institute, 
34; quadrupled output metal- 
cutting machines, his books 
on scientific management, 97 

Taylor, Samuel W., secretary to 
John Ericsson, 272 

Telegraphy foreran electrical en- 
gineering, 119; recent ad- 
vances reported by Western 
Union Co., 172 

Tennessee buys patent rights 
from Eli Whitney, 90; sus- 
pends tax, 92 

Terminal Building, New York, 
foundations cut by Tilghman 
shot, 373 

Thimonnier, Barthelemi, sewing 
machine, 340 

Thomas, Henry, on Ottmar 
Mergenthaler, 405 

Thomson, Robert William, in- 
ventor pneumatic tire, 205 

Thorwaldsen, friendship with 
S. F. B. Morse, 136 

Thurber, Charles, writing ma- 
chine, 323 

Tilden, Professor William, pro- 
duces artificial rubber, 202 

Tilghman, Benjamin Chew, gen- 
ealogy, birth, 369; education, 
370; produces hard steel shot 
for treating stone, 372 ; enlists 
in Union Army, earns distinc- 
tion, wounded, returns home, 
re-enlists, 374; unintentionally 
produces paper pulp from 
wood, 375 ; process detailed by 
himself, 377; process as since 
modified, 378; devises sand 
blast, 379; its development, 



384 ; torpedo experiments, 391 ; 
final illness, death, 392 

Tilghman, Richard A., brother 
and associate of Benjamin C. 
Tilghman, 371 

Timby, Theodore R., revolving 
turret, 254 

Tire, pneumatic, invented by R. 
W. Thomson, 205 ; recent 
forms, 207 

Tombstones inscribed by sand 
blast, 383 

Tompkins, D. A., citations from 
his " Cotton," 83, 86, 89 

Touch systems in typewriting, 

Tredgold, Thomas, suggests 
T-rail, 21 

Typesetting, its details, 393 

Typewriter, Sholes', 323, 325; 
three plans only, 332; its ele- 
ments, 332; recent models, 
333; tabulator, rivalry with 
printing, principles of con- 
struction, 334 ; manipulation, 
335; touch-systems, 336 


Upsala, Silvered Book, 316 

Vail, Alfred, sees Morse's first 
model, 147 ; becomes partner 
with Morse, 148; improves 
Morse instruments, 151 ; arti- 
cle by F. L. Pope, 152; be- 
comes assistant superintendent 
of first line, 159; lays under- 
ground conduits which fail, 
suspends wires in air with 
success, 159; instruction by 
Morse, 163 ; improves relay 
and finger-key, 164; why he 
kept in the background, 165 ; 
portrait, 158 

Vapor cure for rubber, 184 
Virginia wheat crop, 276 


Wagner, Charles R., on Ottmar 
Mergenthaler, 415 

War, gifts to peace, 96 

Watson, Jessie, prints circles 
with acorn cup, 315 

Webster, Daniel, argues against 
Fulton, 17; portraits and 
busts, 104; procures an ex- 
tension of Thomas Blanchard's 
patent, 105; argues on behalf 
Charles Goodyear, 213 

Wedge, double, justifier, Schuck- 
ers', 429, 430 

West, Benjamin, criticises 
Morse's pictures, 124; friend- 
ship of King George Third, 

Western Union Telegraph Co., 
recent advances, 172 

Wheel, beginnings of, 105 

Wheeler, Nathaniel, partner of 
Allen B. Wilson, 365 

Whitney, Eli, birth, memorial 
tablet, manual skill in boy- 
hood, 75 ; teaches school, stud- 
ies at Yale, 76; repairs ap- 
paratus, goes to Savannah, 
guest of Mrs. Nathanael 
Greene, 77; begins model of 
cotton gin, 78; takes Phineas 
Miller as partner, 81 ; gin pat- 
ented, gin toll excessive, 82; 
saws omitted in Whitney's 
patent, consequent trouble, 83 ; 
spurious copy of patent, 84 ; re- 
plies to Governor Jackson, 86 ; 
sells patent rights to South 
Carolina, 89; to North Caro- 
lina, 90; remonstrance against 
brutality and dishonesty in 
South Carolina, 91 ; claim as 
inventor upheld after investi- 
gation, 92 ; note to Fulton, 93 ; 
begins manufacture of fire- 
arms, 96; contracts to supply 
10,000 stands of arms, 98 ; fac- 
tory near New Haven, meth- 
ods of manufacture, 99; 
adopted at Government Ar- 
mories, and by foreign nations, 
100; marriage, mortal illness, 

INDEX 447 

101; surgical devices, death, Withington, Charles B., knotter, 

personality, 102 35 

Wich, Ferdinand J., aids Ottmar Wolcott, Oliver, contract with 

Mergenthaler, 422 Eli Whitney, his aid, 98; note 

Willis, Harry, befriends Charles from Whitney, 99 
Goodyear, 185 

Wilson, Allen B., inventor sew- Y 
ing machine, 362; two-motion 

feed, four-motion feed, 363; Yost, George W. N., examines 

rotary hook, 364 Shol <f s typewriter, recom- 

Wisconsin's services in civil mends manufacture by Kern- 
war, 319 ingtons, 330 




This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

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Renewed books are subject to immediate recall. 

c 2 

TO ID JuiU;>?u 

DEC 13 1975 6 1 

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'R 2 2 1983 | 


General Library 

University of California